Gallatin Gateway School Takes Home Gold In Health And Wellness

GALLATIN COUNTY

POSTED: 6:37 AM Mar 06 2012   UPDATED: 10:48 AM Mar 07 2012
GALLATIN GATEWAY, Mont. -

Whole grain, home-made french toast, sausage, tater tots, pea pods and grapes or strawberries.

They may be celebrating National School Breakfast Week but balanced and nutritious menu options come standard at Gallatin Gateway School.

"It's a step up from years before in that we have a better lunch menu and a wider variety of food," says student Aidan Morton.

Classmate Ellie Palakovich agrees.

"We got a bunch more new things to eat and it's gotten really good," says Palakovich.

It's taken them over a year of hard work but it's finally paid off.

"It was a whole school effort, between the teaching of the health classes and the gym classes and just teaching the kids what is good for their body and getting them used to eating all these different fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Going from a white bread to a whole grain, that's a big change for kids," says Assistant Chef and Baker Bobbie Jo Gunderson.

It was more of a party than an assembly where Montana Team Nutrition Program Director Katie Bark awarded Gallatin Gateway's chefs with two of the USDA's prestigious Gold Awards for their success in the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Program.

She says it means they really went above and beyond.

"Schools are busy. Food service people are busy just trying to get meals on so, to go and really serve the extra items to make sure that meal is healthy, nutrient-rich, and just going to give kids what they need to learn, takes effort," says Bark.

Education leaders at Gallatin Gateway say, when it comes to nutrition, knowledge is power.

"What they're learning they can actually apply. They can make choices about what they're going to eat, how physically active they're going to be and they know the consequences of that." says Gallatin Gateway School Superintendent Kim DeBruycker.

They teach habits for a healthy lifestyle in the classroom, on the playground and in the lunchroom.

"We teach them by giving them a lot of samples. If they want something sweet, we're like, 'hey, why don't you try this yogurt? This is just as sweet as a sweet,' and then it's amazing. The kids have noticed a difference in how they feel throughout the day from having a full, nutritious meal," says Gunderson.

HAving full, healthy meals at school is especially important for kids who may not get the nutrition they need at home.

It also happens to be National School Breakfast Week, which stresses the importance of a balanced breakfast for student health and success.

"School meals mean the world to kids whose families are struggling and, in Montana these days, a lot of families are struggling to make ends meet. Both parents may be working and, yet, it's hard to put food on the table so, school meals provide nutrition that kids would otherwise be missing," says dietician and President of Nutrition for Future Dayle Hayes.

Yet, nutrition experts say schools like Gallatin Gateway are the ones that set an example for the rest of the state and the country.

"In terms of how this cafeteria operates and allowing children to have the time and the focus to eat. I have a saying these days which is that it's not nutrition until they eat or drink it. So, it's one thing to serve it on a tray, it's a whole other thing to give kids a comfortable cafeteria to eat in and this school really does that," says Hayes.