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Chesnut Charter Receives Wellness Initiative Grants

Dunwoody elementary school applies grant awards towards outdoor learning facilities, increased physical activity and smart food choices.

Emily G, a second grade student, was the first winner of Chesnut's voluntary monthly whole food essay contest launched by the school's Cafeteria Manager and Wellness Team. Credit: Chesnut Charter Elementary
Emily G, a second grade student, was the first winner of Chesnut's voluntary monthly whole food essay contest launched by the school's Cafeteria Manager and Wellness Team. Credit: Chesnut Charter Elementary
Patch Staff Report

Chesnut Charter Elementary School in Dunwoody is expanding its wellness programs thanks to an infusion of funds from two grants awarded this school year: the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant and the Fuel Up to Play 60 Award.

With a mission to support schools and inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness, Whole Kids Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) founded by Whole Foods Market. It, along with grant partner Food Corps, selected Chesnut for a $2,000 grant, and High Mowing Organic Seeds donated a generous set of organic and heirloom seeds to the school.

Chesnut has used some of the Whole Kids Foundation grant to replace rotted wooden planters in the Chesnut Garden outdoor classroom with new raised beds made of recycled composite materials. The remainder of the grant funds has been allocated toward a new, math-themed “Pizza Garden," featuring geometrically shaped beds to facilitate hands-on Farm to School math lessons, from shape identification to multiplication and finding area.

Three teachers and the school’s counselor will complete their School Master Gardener certification by accruing 50 school service hours as they install their Pizza Garden design.

To be completed this summer, the Pizza Garden is an expansion to Chesnut Garden, the school’s courtyard organic vegetable, fruit and herb garden. Since 2011, K-5 classes have used Chesnut Garden to study plant life cycles, insect life, composting and where their food comes from by planting, harvesting, cooking, tasting and feeding the community.

The school’s Parent Teacher Council Wellness Team will soon be rolling out in-depth turnkey math and life science lessons by grade to encourage Chesnut’s teachers to further integrate the garden into their units throughout the year.

The lesson plans are being amassed from the FarmtoSchool.org, UGA Cooperative Extension School Garden Curriculum, and the NSTA's "Freebies for Science Teachers" web pages, as well as those provided to the School Master Gardener team by the Fernbank Science Center.

The second grant awarded to Chesnut this school year, “Fuel Up to Play 60,” is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today's youth to lead healthier lives.

Fuel Up to Play 60 granted Chesnut $2,000 to implement a Healthy Eating Play, “Promoting Popular Choices,” and a supply of pedometers to implement a Physical Activity Play, "Walk for Wellness Club."

Developed in collaboration with the Cornell University B.E.N. Center and the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, “Promoting Popular Choices” involves food service staff, teachers, administration and students working together to promote healthy food choices and nutrition awareness. Chesnut Wellness Team parents, Cafeteria Manager Stacy Martin, and Assistant Manager Susana Tanyi are cooperating to make improvements in three main areas.

  1. Increase consumption of whole foods. The cafeteria staff will begin portioning apples and pears to make the whole fruits easier for young children to eat; and the Wellness Team and Ms. Martin have launched a voluntary monthly whole food essay contest, in support of Dekalb County’s Farm to School monthly lunch offerings.
  2. Increase participation in school breakfast and lunch. Cafeteria staff will prepare monthly tastings of new menu items and distribute them to all classes the week before they are on the menu, along with a feedback form. The Wellness Team will redesign lunch line signage to educate students on their lunch choices and encourage them to create a balanced meal.
  3. Increase availability of healthy à la carte items. Responding to the requests Chesnut parents made in a recent school lunch survey, the Wellness Team worked with Ms. Martin to replace sweet à la carte offerings with healthier choices like string cheese, yogurt and raisins. Wellness Team will publicize these new offerings, which may also be purchased as a healthy snack.

Ms. Martin, Chesnut’s Cafeteria Manager, remarked in a news release: “The cafeteria staff and I passionately believe that this is the time in a child's life when healthy eating habits take root. We are proud that the Fuel Up to Play 60 award and a committed team of parents, faculty and administration will allow us to better educate and motivate our students to try a variety of nutrient-rich foods as they learn to create balanced meals."

The Physical Activity Play, "Walk for Wellness Club," will encourage students, faculty, staff and administrators to make walking part of their day. To encourage all to take advantage of Chesnut’s newly installed walking/running path, Fuel Up to Play 60 will be providing the school with pedometers to track individual progress. This is slated to launch this spring.

Chesnut Charter Elementary's Wellness Team is part of the school’s Parent Teacher Council. It promotes healthy habits and environment for students, families, faculty and staff of Chesnut Charter Elementary School in support of DeKalb County's Wellness Policy.

By soliciting community, family and staff input, the Wellness Team develops and executes Chesnut's School Health Improvement Action Plan, which addresses physical, mental and emotional wellness that leads to greater success inside and out of the classroom. This team runs the Farm to School, Ecology Club, Recycling, Increased Movement and Nutrition programs.

- Information provided by Chesnut Charter Elementary School

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