Cherry Creek kids fuel up with healthy foodsCherry Creek kids fuel up with healthy foods

HARVEY – Kids at Cherry Creek Elementary School in Harvey are fueling up on fresh fruit as part of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program founded by the National Dairy Council and National Football League, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The national program is designed to empower students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school to improve their overall health and wellness.

Cherry Creek was the recipient of a $2,500 grant, which the school is using to, among other things, provide fresh fruit to all its students one Friday every month during the school year.

As part of the Play 60 program, the school is analyzed at the beginning of the year to discover wellness areas the school could improve on. Goals are then set in those areas.

“Physical activity and nutrition are the two key focuses for the school wellness, those are the two we scored the lowest on in our wellness investigation,” said Lanae Joubert, a parent of two Cherry Creek students and volunteer coordinator of Fresh Fruit Fridays at the school.

The Fuel Up To Play 60 program is designed to include as much student input as possible. In that vein, Joubert said students in third through fifth grade were chosen to form a student leadership team, which helped decide how the grant would be used.

“They decided what they want to do to improve the health and wellness of their school,” Joubert said. “Their idea was to develop Fresh Fruit Friday.”

Joubert said the students brainstormed a number of ideas – trampolines on the playground, boxing rings at recess – that wouldn’t necessarily work well in a school environment.

However, the group, along with the Fresh Fruit Friday idea, did decide to help develop a trail near school grounds, planting mile markers that show how far travelers have gone along the trail.

The group is also hoping to purchase snow shoes to be used in the winter months.

So far, Joubert said the Fresh Fruit Friday program has been popular among the students. They’ve tried a wide variety of new fruits, from pineapples to mangos to even kumquats.

“The biggest hit has been kiwi,” Joubert said.

Joubert, who is also an assistant professor in Northern Michigan University’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, said by including students in on the planning process, it helps them understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

“I thought this would be a unique way to try to improve the wellness of the school, because it’s not just parents telling the school district what they want – it’s the kids designing and developing and implementing these programs, and so it gives them tools to help make these changes,” Joubert said. “It’s a great way to try to educate the community. Start young and the kids teach their parents what they’ll eat and what they should be doing, so it’s a fun way to approach it.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.