Sherman School students surprised Rep. Eileen Naughton.
On a recent visit to the school, Naughton, who is concerned about good nutrition and exercise and how they can impact learning, asked kids if they know what is in the food they eat.
It’s then that she learned the students were reading the ingredients off of food packaging and even advising their parents on what foods to get.
“I was so impressed,” Naughton said last Thursday at the State House. “I asked them how did you get so smart?”
She also discovered letters had been written to the Rhode Island Department of Education and the state Health Department about the nutrition value of school meals. As a result, Naughton said, the Department of Health sent personnel to investigate.
Having seen so much interest in health on the part of students and school nurse Donna Rainone, Naughton wasn’t surprised to discover that student Angelina Antonizio, 11, was a winner in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which aims to improve the lifestyles of children and local communities.
Angelina won a national contest through the program and will serve as a Rhode Island ambassador at an all-expenses-paid national leadership conference in July. Each year, students involved in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program are chosen to become ambassadors and work with others from across the country in order to inspire their schools and communities to get healthy, get active and make a difference. The National Football League and the National Dairy Council sponsor the program and the ambassador contest.
On Friday Naughton honored Angelina and Rainone on the House floor. Naughton highlighted Rainone’s role as a program adviser, which has enabled her to set up after-school activities like student yoga and organize food tastings with healthy snacks.
Rainone has applied for the grants through the program for the past three years. Through her collaboration with Fuel Up to Play 60, Sherman Elementary School has received $3,200 to date. Each grant application includes information about the school, specific details about student breakfasts, lunch, physical education and other activities. All grant money must be used to encourage healthy living. In the past, students at Sherman Elementary have received jump ropes, beach balls for volleyball, a limbo stick, Chinese jump ropes and yoga mats. The children have learned to do line dances of all kinds during outdoor recess and consumed healthy foods as part of taste testing. This year, the program was able to fund movement equipment for the music teacher and pedometers for the physical education teacher.
Rainone is also in charge of a student committee that works with her to plan healthy activities and set goals. Last year, Angelina was a committee member.
“This just goes to show that both adults and children can be inspiring when they work together,” Naughton said. “I hope that they can serve as an example for other elementary schools across the state with their intense focus on the value of nutrition and exercise. If we engrain these values in our children at an early age, I have hope that we can help bring a new generation of healthy individuals into our society.”