Fourth grade students at Cotuit Elementary School in Massachusetts were upset to learn that the school district had no student representatives on the Committee that was developing the district’s nutrition policy. The students believed they should have a voice in the decisions made by the Barnstable Public School’s Wellness Policy Committee. The Committee had appealed to the community for help, though, and the teacher explained that students could do a service-learning project responding to that request—a prospect that greatly appealed to the students.
The students surveyed their peers in grades 1-4 to find out about their snack habits at school and at home. Using their survey data, students visited the supermarket with their health teacher to learn about the ingredients, calories and chemicals in different popular snacks, and the nutritional benefits or drawbacks of each ingredient. They reviewed federal guidelines for healthy meals and snacks, and researched the long-term health impacts of childhood obesity.
The students then discussed possible solutions and decided they wanted to do more than just work with the Wellness Policy Committee. In addition to presenting their findings to the Committee and offering their suggestions for district nutrition policies, the students worked with the local 4-H Youth Development Coordinator to organize a healthy food fair at their school. The fair drew together local families and community members and offered a variety of fun and educational activities. The students gathered healthy, kid-friendly recipes and put together a cookbook, which they gave to students and adults at the fair.