Farmington River scores Dairy and Food Council funds


OTIS -- In the Farmington River Regional School District, fruit and yogurt smoothies are something to cheer about. Well that, and the $2,702 New England Dairy and Food Council grant that's funding, in part, the school's new smoothie machine.

The grant is part of a national program called "Fuel Up to Play 60," a health and fitness campaign. Students can win prizes ranging from T-shirts to an NFL player visit, for pledging to eat healthy foods and be active for at least 60 minutes a day.

On Thursday afternoon, Diane Krol, a nutrition specialist for the council, visited the school to present the check during a school assembly.

The grant will help establish a "Grab-n-Go" breakfast cart which will include smoothies and other items for breakfast and snacks; student cooking classes; new equipment -- from plastic field cones to coolers -- among other supplies. Every child will also get their own hula hoop and be able to decorate it.

"They're into it. They love it," said Kendra Rybacki, the school's food service director who applied for the grant. She said every student in grades four through six have signed the Fuel Up to Play 60 pledge. The school is covered with posters, and on Thursday, a celebratory banner was hung in the school's foyer.

The new Dairy Council grant-funded initiatives are part of a larger district-wide effort to better promote a school-wide culture of health and fitness. This year, Farmington River also joined the state's Farm to School Project, which seeks to increase students' access to healthy, locally grown food.

Principal Mary Turo said there's been increased participation in the school's meal programs this year, which she attributes to the new nutrition and fitness initiatives.

Three students -- sixth-graders Nathan Reynolds and Collin O'Brien, and fourth-grader Braxton Crandall -- will join the district's wellness committee next month. Adults on the committee include parents Hillary Howard and Bridget Kranz; Rybacki; teachers Laurie Flower, Jenna Gangell, Melissa Costa and Bethany Mielke; superintendent Jo Ann Austin and director of student services Mike Saporito; school nurse Denise Zuidema and Lynette Gagnon, assistant to the superintendent.

"I think it's awesome how we now have the grant and three new students on the wellness committee who can talk to the rest of the students and help decide how to spend it," Crandall said.

Reynolds said he hopes to be able to help start more athletic programs at the school.

All three will also help survey students about changes they would like to see in the school cafeteria and with the playground.

"I'm so impressed by all the enthusiasm here, about being active and staying healthy," Krol said at Thursday's assembly. She also encouraged student leadership with the health initiatives. "You know what will work and interest your peers best."


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