More than 260 students, teachers, food service directors and advisers from 33 Michigan elementary and middle schools took part in this year's Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health event Sept. 25 at Ford Field in Detroit.
They are returning to their school systems armed with ideas for boosting physical activity during the day and tasty recipes to add to their school lunch menus that build upon the USDA new school meals standards that took effect this fall.
The new nutrition standards - the first significant changes to school meals in more than 15 years and a key component of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 - ensure that students are offered fruits and vegetables daily, increase the offerings of whole grain-rich foods and low-fat or fat-free milk, limit calories based on student age to ensure proper portion sizes, and reduce the amounts of saturated and trans fats and sodium.
The Fuel Up to Play 60 supports the new meal standards by encouraging youth to eat good-for-you foods like low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and being active for at least 60 minutes each day.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow took part in the day's activities, which included joining students for a flash workout exercise session.
"Improving the nutrition of school meals is an important investment in the future of America's children, and by giving students a voice in shaping their future, National Dairy Council, the NFL and USDA are providing opportunities for children to lead real change in the fight against childhood obesity" Rowe said.
"Fuel Up to Play 60 also gives leaders in health, business, government and communities a greater opportunity to help children develop and maintain healthy habits that will last a lifetime," Rowe added.
Developed over four years ago through a partnership with the National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Fuel Up to Play 60 program empowers young people to work with school decision makers to plan and implement strategies for increasing the amount of healthy food choices and physical activity options available in their schools.
This year's Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health event, the fourth annual, was presented by the Detroit Lions, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). The day's "game plan" included music, motivational talks, practicing football training camp-style skills with Detroit Lions players, and trying a variety of nutritious food options.
The ultimate goal for the day's event was to inspire students to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits in an effort to improve overall personal health.
Students interacted throughout the day with several current and former Detroit Lions football players. Former Detroit Lions wide receiver and four-time Pro Bowl player Herman Moore welcomed participants and led the pre-game warm-up session, while former Detroit Lions fullback, three-time Pro Bowl alternate and team MVP Cory Schlesinger kicked off the first quarter session before the school "teams" were introduced as they ran through the player tunnel onto the playing field.
During the second quarter "training practice," they were joined by current Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and team coaches and trainers.
Participants also sampled a variety of menu items that can easily and economically be replicated by school food service directors. The healthy breakfast menu included pre-packaged apples, bananas, fruit and yogurt muffins, two varieties of yogurt parfaits (Michigan Fuels Up! parfait made with vanilla yogurt and dried apples, cherries and cranberries with graham square cereal, and Touchdown! Parfait made with vanilla yogurt and blueberries, strawberries and toasted oat cereal), and ice cold milk.
During the "halftime" lunch, students voted for their favorite new foods during the "taste and vote" tailgate.
Students sampled three varieties of pizza: Hawaiian, made with marinated chicken and pineapple; Mediterranean, made with a hummus "sauce" in place of tomato sauce, red peppers, tzatzki, and a romaine lettuce ribbon; and Very Veggie, made with a variety of fresh vegetables.
They also tried salad on a stick (cheese cube, spinach, grape tomato, colored peppers and broccoli), served with dipping sauces (honey mustard, cilantro lime and spicy buffalo); kale chips; cinnamon (pita) chips, served with four ounces of apple berry salsa and two ounces of blueberry hummus; and ice cold milk. (The winning entrèe was the Hawaiian pizza.)
During the third quarter, former physical educator and action-based learning expert Jean Blaydes revealed secrets about boosting brain power through exercising.
In the event's "final quarter," participants headed down to the playing field. There they heard from current Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson who shared tips on eating healthy and being active.
The "final play" was a flash workout exercise session that included all 33 school teams, Burleson, USDA Administrator Rowe, and U.S. Sen. Stabenow, and was directed by the Go Comedy! improvisation troupe.
Participation in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program continues to grow. According to a survey conducted during the 2011-12 school year, 32 percent of the state's 1.4 million students are involved in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program and the number of youth involved in the program has increased by 37 percent over the previous 12-month period.
To learn how your school can become involved in the "Fuel Up to Play 60" program, visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.com.