Good nutrition starts at home, according to Hartland's Food Service Director Terri Sincock, and Hartland schools is now offering a new way to help parents become more involved with their child’s nutritional needs when they are away from the home.
myNutratek.com, a health and wellness program that encourages K-12 students and their families to record their daily nutrition intake, physical activity and sleeping habits, launched district-wide last week. An email inviting parents to try out the new, free website- thanks to corporate sponsors such as Ford, Little Caesers and more- explained that it not only includes an easy to use calorie counter, but games and quizzes that are all age specific.
“I like the fact that once we get the cafeteria part of it loaded into it, parents can open dialogue with their students,” Terri Sincock said referring to the program's ability to show parents what their kids are eating during school hours. “If parents talk to students and use it as a tool, not as a disciplinary action, but as a tool to show them the difference (with food choices) I think it’s going to help everyone in the long run.”
In an effort to combat childhood obesity, Sincock says implementing the new website will help educate students and parents about nutrition, a subject she says can be confusing since it seems to always be changing.
“One week they're saying something is bad for you and the next week it’s something else,” Sincock said. “It’s very confusing, so any information that they can get is good.”
Having well-informed parents who stress healthy eating habits is obvious in some kids during lunch hours, according to Sincock, who says that younger children who are introduced early on to different food items are always easy to pick out in the school lunch line.
“Their tastes and what they’re going to try and whether they’re open to trying things actually starts at home and you can tell the ones that try it before they ever start school,” Sincock said. “They come through the line and we start something new and we have bite sizes pieces. They are the first ones who will be like, ‘I’ll taste it.’”
Teaching kids healthy habits is not the only reason for the myNutratek site, however. According to Sincock, when the site is fully functional, parents will also be able to see allergens in every food item that will be served that day. A first step, Sincock says, in preventing kids from picking up foods in line they won’t be able to buy because of allergies.
“Parents will know ahead of time what food items their kids can and cannot eat,” said Sincock who explained that allergens are listed in the school’s cash register system and show up after food items are scanned letting cashiers know if the child is able to purchase the item or not.
Having all of that specific information is place on the new website, however, is still a work in progress and Sincock is hoping that within the next two months the project will be completed.
“It will take a lot of work, but once that’s all in there, they’ll not only get all the nutritional data, but the allergens, which will be very cool,” she said.
Teaching children the benefits of making healthy choices is the reason why myNutratek was created. Founder Tim Codd came up with the idea of myNutratek after visiting his daughter during her school lunch period after seeing her come home upset after being teased. Codd then saw what his daughter was eating in her lunch and realized he wasn’t happy with the food choices she was making.
“He vowed to his daughter that he would have lunch with her once a week for the rest of the school year, which he did and made her feel better,” Sincock said. “And then tried to come up with ways in which he could help, and this is what he came up with.”
Awareness, Sincock said, is her goal with the new system and hopes that parents and students will become more involved and take on more active roles with their nutritional choices. Sincock is also hoping that when parents take a close look at the nutritional value of the food being offered in Hartland schools, they will see that Sincock and her staff have worked hard to change the selections being offered to healthy options that include things such as vegetable and fruit bars.
“People think the school lunches haven’t changed in 15 years because the USDA hasn’t changed the guidelines,” Sincock said. “But we’ve changed a long time ago. We’ve been making changes since we saw the whole obesity thing starting to snowball. We’re trying to slow it down, at least on our ends.”