School Nurse Starts School Garden To Encourage Healthy Eating


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Students are encouraged to eat healthy lunches, but what if there was a program to increase efforts of consumption of fruits and vegetables while in school?

Now students at Meramec Elementary are enjoying more fruits and vegetables in their diets at school. The school was also selected as a 2016 Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) School Foodservice Role Model for its efforts to increase fruits and vegetable consumption for their students and staff.


Meramec’s school Nurse, Caren Etling helped started the school’s Science Garden in the Spring of 2015, encouraging students to learn about plants, crops, harvesting and healthy eating. Students planted corn, beans, native Missouri plants and a variety of herbs. Etling encouraged teachers to teach students about valuable life skills like gardening while incorporating healthy fresh foods into their diets.

“While it is quite an honor to receive this award, it is a greater honor to have the students, staff, families, community neighbors and community partners working together to support our quest,” said Meramec Nurse Caren Etling.

Kids eating lunch. (Photo from Meramec Elementary School)

The school also is participating in MyPlate Challenges, where students and staff compete against other schools across the state in recording the number of fruits and vegetables consumed at school. The school participates in the Fruits and Vegetables Challenge, the Dairy Challenge and the Lean Protein Challenge.

Competing in healthy school challenges like these and beginning school gardens are a great way to introduce students to a variety of healthy eating choices while in school. Latino kids need healthy food environments in their schools, where research shows that many majority-Latino schools often lack access to healthier foods and beverages in schools.

Nurses, teachers, students, staff, and parents can all help play a role in creating healthier food and beverages environments for schools. Nurse Etling is just one example of many Salud Heroes that help their communities by creating healthy changes. Everyone can create healthier schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

Etling explained to Meramec her passion is to help encourage health among students for a lifetime of healthier outcomes.

“We are exposing young children to a variety of healthy foods and activities, including connecting them with their food sources. This promotes a lifetime of healthy habits and wellness. These are key to the fight against childhood obesity and chronic disease. Healthy children are better learners!”Etling said.

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