Theme School receives nutrition grant

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Theme School at Ficquett is one of 21 schools in the state to receive a grant to fight childhood obesity and improve nutrition.

The school recently received a $3,000 planning grant from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Governor's SHAPE Initiative to develop physical activity and nutrition plans to aid in the fight against obesity

Steven Joyce, physical education teacher at the Theme School, said that the grant will build a School Wellness Council to initiate the Center for Disease Control's School Health Index modules on physical activity and nutrition. Physical education teachers, the lunchroom manager and classroom teachers will be the main developers of the physical education and nutrition improvement plans, and the other team members will include school administration, the school counselor and parents.

"It is a true blessing to receive this grant from the Georgia SHAPE Initiative," he said. "This grant will improve the overall health and physical activity of the students, staff and parents at the Theme School."

Research shows that children are much more physically active if they attend schools that schedule, promote and supervise opportunities such as structured recess, short classroom-based activity breaks and before and after-school activities, according to Georgia SHAPE.

Georgia currently ranks third in the nation for overweight and obese children.

"These grants will go a long way toward improving childhood fitness and nutrition," said Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health. "We must teach our children the importance of physical activity and the lifelong benefits of healthy eating, lessons they hopefully will carry with them throughout their lives."

Schools applying for grants had to form a health team or council; conduct an assessment; develop a physical activity and nutrition improvement plan that includes priorities based on the results of the assessment; participate in training and technical assistance sessions provided by this grant program; develop a strategy for implementing programs and activities; and conduct an evaluation of the planning process.

The 21 schools received a total of $87,000 in Georgia SHAPE school grants. The schools include elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state.

Twelve schools received up to $5,000 each to implement or improve physical activity and nutrition plans. Those plans are determined by health-related school assessments that prioritize the schools' needs. The money will also be used for training and technical assistance. Nine schools received up to $3,000 each to develop physical activity and nutrition plans, like at the Theme School.