LANESBOROUGH -- In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, healthy foods, hand-washing and teeth-brushing should be part of a student's daily routine, too.
On Friday, Berkshire Health Systems and Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry were among the participants of The Eagle's "Back to School the Healthy Way" event, providing tips and free goodies to promote and support wellness habits among children and families.
"The importance of eating breakfast, yes, we still preach that," said Cathy Marchetto, a clinical coordinator for BHS, who met with visitors during the event.
She had displays regarding sugar intake and a federal nutrition guidelines program called "Choose My Plate" (choosemyplate.gov). The Choose My Plate movement simplifies the old food pyramid or staircase to a round, color-coded diagram representing a plate. It promotes not only the recommendations for daily intake of fruits, grains, protein, vegetables and dairy, it also highlights the portion size of each.
Marchetto also talked about and provided handouts for ideas of quick and easy items to pack in a lunch. "Yogurts, protein bars and breakfast bars are especially good for teens, who you're lucky enough to get out of bed in the morning let alone having them sit down for breakfast," she said.
She also had props on hand to show the consequences of drinking sugary beverages versus water. For example, if you drank two sodas a day, every day, for a month, you'd consume the equivalent of a 5-pound bag of sugar.
Berkshire Health Systems is currently working with Pittsfield Public Schools to help the district revise its wellness policy in order to comply with new state and federal nutrition guidelines and well as district goals.
In addition to healthy eating habits, Kimberly Kelly, community health education coordinator for BHS and Cindy Croce of Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association, talked about topics ranging from fighting off flu to how parents can help their kids by becoming better role models for good health.
"Hand-washing is still the number one prevention for fighting a cold and flu," Kelly said.
They also talked with parents about understanding the benefits of immunizations and vaccination schedules. Croce talked with adults of all ages about blood pressure and other healthy practices.
"It's not only a top-down approach but also bottom-up," said Kelly. "Kids learn from school and go home and tell their parents about it, while adults can learn from the community and share with their children. The important steps for healthy families is to practice these habits and learn these things where we work and play. Health literacy is a big deal."
Beyond the BHS booths, Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry handed out free toothbrush and toothpaste kits for kids, and talked about proper brushing techniques.
The Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts presented information on its new partnership with Health New England to support the Health and Personal Wellness Program for Girls.
Pittsfield Family YMCA gave demonstrations of its movement classes, from gymnastics to break-dancing.
The National Crime Prevention Council was also on hand to create child identification and safety kits free for families.
Community health coordinator Kimberly Kelly said it's important for everyone to address their health, from a mental, physical, well-being and safety perspective in order to live healthy, productive lives.
"Some kids, some people go home from school or work to not so good situations. Stress is a big deal. That's why it's important to keep occupied and create healthy, positive messages and environments for the community," she said.