ELDON, Mo. - The Eldon R-I School District and Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) cut the ribbon Tuesday on a partnership to improve health for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, including MFH's awarding of a $100,000 grant to the district.
Eldon is one of 13 towns across Missouri to receive the grant in varying amounts. The grant provides $100,000 per school year to be used according to how the district assesses its students' health needs for the next five years. MFH, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization, is working closely with the district to train personnel in ways to help improve students' health.
"Our goal is to achieve a healthier lifestyle through education for the students - and hopefully reaching out to the families in the community - through healthier eating, through fitness, through offering more opportunities for activity in school and outside of school," said Terry Atteberry, newly hired student wellness coordinator for the Eldon school district.
Atteberry said MFH's purpose in offering the grant focuses on but is not limited to the problem of childhood obesity.
"One in three kids are obese," she said. "I don't want it to be just limited to those children that are already affected by that. I want all of our kids to be healthy."
The district plans to use the grant to help address students' nutrition and activity needs through various educational opportunities and potential programs, both during the school day and after school.
"My first order of business is to put in a committee in each (K-8) building and one overall district committee," Atteberry said. "We'll launch those programs throughout the school year."
Possible programs could include running and walking clubs, as well as incentive programs to encourage children to meet fitness goals. Atteberry also mentioned a possible partnership with the current afterschool LEAP program, which offers tutoring and other activities.
"We already have a lot of great things and a lot of opportunities for kids to get out there and become involved in things," Atteberry said. "There are so many options out there, but we've got to get them going."
These would be in addition to efforts the district has already made to encourage healthy lifestyles for students, including salad bars in each school's cafeteria.
Atteberry, who recently worked to lose a significant amount of weight herself, said she is passionate about helping to change the way of thinking about health and nutrition for students and families who need the help.
"This is the first generation of youth that they are fearful may not outlive their parents. That was something I heard that really stuck with me," she said, citing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as poor academic performance, negligent attendance and childhood depression as potential risks of unhealthy practices during childhood. "We're excited to get started with this. It's just so important."