The Louisiana Department of Education honored two schools for promoting healthy eating and physical activities among their students - the only two schools that entered the Louisiana Healthy Schools competition.
Because participation was so severely limited, the state decided not to name a single winner and runnerup, but named two “winners” instead.
And now the state is encouraging all school districts to create health programs for children because statistics show that children who eat better learn better.
Cheryl Michelet, press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Education told the Herald-Guide that only two schools in the state participated in the competition, but both schools are an example of what can be done all across the state.
"We don't know why more schools didn't apply, what we do know is one school is supposed to be nominated from each school district and we only had two - both were listed as our winners," Michelet says.
"If a child comes to school sick or too tired because they are overweight or unhealthy, they are not prepared to learn. The schools that have created health programs have seen academic success by implementing healthy diets and creating exercise programs for children."
Michelet agrees that the trend to promote healthy living in early childhood is a good one.
"Studies show there is a direct benefit with good health and academic success among children," she continues.
Angela Walker, director of community services and support for the Louisiana Department of Education, tells the Herald-Guide:
"St. Catherine of Sienna School in Metairie gives kids healthy menu choices - they opted to serve baked potatoes instead of French fries to students during lunch and yogurt instead of ice cream for dessert and they also opened a salad bar,
"And during March, St. Catherine's has a program called ‘Kids Get Fit Week', which focuses on exercise and good nutrition for the whole school," she continues.
Walker says the New Orleans Saints came to the school this year and taught the children about he importance of physical exercise and eating right.
Michelet says some ways parents can help their child's school get involved in the Louisiana Healthy Awards program is to contact the principal if there is an outstanding fitness program they are aware of.
“Parents can also contact their school board members to share ideas that they may have about creating healthy food and physical fitness programs at their child’s school.”
Michelet says one of the schools started a running club to keep kids fit.
"Our other winning school, Prien Lake Elementary in Lake Charles, created a running club to train elementary kids to do long distance running, this is an innovative idea and is much better than the old ways of teaching kids about health and exercise in a classroom setting," Michelet adds.
"Eighty students participated in the club and ran 4,831 miles over this past school year."
Michelet says the students completed a 13-mile marathon. Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation helped to create the criteria used to determine what school fitness programs would be eligible to receive the awards.
"Louisiana legislative act 734 and Senate Bill no. 871 was designed to encourage physical fitness programs in school, because childhood obesity is a growing problem," Phil Brantley, director of the education division of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, tells the Herald-Guide.