We hear a lot about childhood obesity. Now one Idaho school is being honored for its efforts to fight it. Tuesday Middleton Middle School will receive the Gold Award of Distinction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its commitment to promoting healthy living. Middleton is only the second Idaho school to achieve that level after Jerome in 2009. Principal Molly Burger says her school has implemented all the nutrition guidelines from the USDA, things like switching to whole grain.
“There’s not a lot of premade bread that can actually meet the requirements,” she says. “So we do a lot of baking. Our hallways smell really yummy lots of the time.”
Burger says her school is not doing things that other Idaho schools aren’t. Middleton just did them earlier than most.
“A friend of mine was talking about their child and how she doesn’t want to eat pizza anymore and when she asked why they said they’re making it with whole wheat and it’s horrible,” she says. “And I told her it would get better. You know our students have gotten used to it over time and now they don’t complain at all.”
The award also takes exercise into account. Burger says while other districts in the state have cut back on physical education, Middleton is committed to providing every student with PE every day.
“We do not have a roll out the balls kind of PE program. Our students condition a couple days a week. They do a lot of running,” she says. “And in fact for the first time last year we ran an all school five K. And every student that started the five K finished it. And we made every student do it.”
Burger says about half of Middleton Middle School students participate in at least one after-school sport. And they're not charged any fees. As education funding has been cut in the past few years many districts have added or increased sports fees. Burger says avoiding that has required a lot of sacrifice.
“In our community there isn’t a lot for kids to do if we didn’t provide those things. And so our school board has made it a priority to continue to fund the activities they know these children love to participate in.”
In the past year Middleton’s high school and three elementary schools have received silver awards from the USDA in this program known as the HealthierUS School Challenge.