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Through a grant from the West Central Wellness Statewide Health Improvement Program, St. Mary's Elementary School in Alexandria has been able to provide kids with a healthy snack three days of the week. St. Mary's hopes to expand the program by offering healthy snacks every day of the week next year. (Contributed photo)

St. Mary's School promotes healthy snacks

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Pears, peppers and pineapple are climbing up the list of favorites at St. Mary's Elementary School in Alexandria. Over the past year, St. Mary's staff has learned how to promote a healthy snack and get kids to eat it.

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Spurred by a grant from West Central Wellness Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), St. Mary's now provides a healthy morning snack to all students.

West Central Wellness SHIP is funded by Minnesota Department of Health and is an initiative to fight physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use.

Traditionally, students have been allowed to bring their own snack for morning break. Unfortunately, the nutritional value of many of the snacks being consumed has been declining over the years. As a result, St. Mary's decided to take a stand against unhealthy eating by changing their morning snack routines and expectations.

Three days a week, students are provided a snack instead of having to bring it from home. Fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods are prepared by the school cook and delivered to the classrooms in time for morning snack.

The school used the money from the SHIP grant to pay for the snack cart, opportunity to taste test new foods and staffing needed to implement the program.

The program has been very well received by the students and the parents, according to St. Mary's staff. The students are being exposed to healthy eating options, and parents no longer need to debate with their children on what to provide for a snack.

St. Mary's teaching staff has seen more nutritional snacks coming in on the days a snack is not provided, proving that students and parents are on board with the new expectations.

Based on the positive results thus far, St. Mary's School is looking to expand the program by offering healthy snacks every day of the week next year.

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