Nutrition Grant Given to MU

By Alison Trautmann
News Editor

The United States Department of Agriculture gave the nutrition department of Marywood University a grant in order to promote nutrition education in Scranton area schools. The program is designed to educate students and raise awareness about the importance of nutrition and physical activity.

Pennsylvania Nutrition Education TRACKS provides statewide nutrition education to schools in Pennsylvania. In order for a school to participate in the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-ed), they must have at least fifty percent free or reduced lunches. The program is currently reaching ten schools in the Scranton School District; three intermediate and seven elementary schools. The TRACKS program focuses on the 4th graders in the elementary schools and the 7th and 8th graders in the intermediate level schools. The program runs all year and is currently reaching 725 students at the intermediate level and 368 students at the elementary level.

“Nutrition Educators” from Marywood go to the schools all through the school year in order to help teach the children about nutrition and physical activity. The intermediate schools receive seven lessons; MyPyramid, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, calcium rich foods, healthy snacking, healthy beverage options, and physical activity and energy balance. The lessons for the elementary schools are on most of the same topics as the intermediate lessons but are slightly different. After each lesson, the students receive a “reinforcer” such as a pencil or eraser with the words “Eat right and exercise” on it. The students and their teachers also receive a newsletter each month that gives extra information and ways to incorporate the learned skills into their everyday life.

This is the second year for the TRACKS program. Last year the students took tests before and after the program. These tests showed an increase in the students’ knowledge of nutritional and physical activity information. The tests also showed significant increase in the amount of vegetables and healthy foods eaten by the students as well as an increase in the amount of time spent doing physical activity and participating in sports. There was also a significant decrease in the amount of time the students spent watching television.

The TRACKS program aims to increase the number of schools it reaches each year. By increasing the number of schools reached by the program more students will be able to learn about the importance of nutrition and physical activity. The TRACKS program is likely to be assist in keeping Pennsylvania’s children healthy.