Poplarville Lower is promoting child health

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2019

Efforts by the staff and administration to make Poplarville Lower Elementary a healthy school have paid off.

Not only are the 450 students provided with healthy meals, opportunities to move around and instructional information that will help them take better care of their health, those efforts have led to the District being awarded $75,000 in grants over the last two years.

This year, the school won the top prize of $50,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for being the healthiest school in the state. The year prior, the school was awarded $25,000 for being selected as one of two schools to receive that grant. Now that the school has won the top prize, staff and volunteers won’t be able to apply again for three years.

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School Nurse Michelle Recatto said that the school’s application was filled out by its Health Council, which is comprised of staff, administrators and members of the community such as nurses, a nutritionist and a representative from Pearl River Community College.

In that application, they included all of the things that the school does to ensure their students are healthy. Those things include a campus garden tended by the students, instructional lessons that get the children out of their seats, fresh fruit on Friday when funded, a staff fitness room filled with workout equipment, a sensory room for students with special needs, and a daily five minute video message that provides health tips to students in the mornings.

Vegetables grown in the garden are eaten by the students in salads, and exercise routines are used to help students memorize facts and figures in the classroom.

Some of last year’s grant was used to continue the fresh fruit on Friday program, where children get a chance to try foods they may have never seen before, such as kiwi, star fruit and dragon fruit.

That money was also used to purchase a portable health class that includes a device that allows the children to see if they washed their hands effectively. When funding is low for the fresh fruit program, area grocery stores will often donate stock, Assistant Principal Sonya Garrett said.

With this year’s grant, the staff plan to install a more inclusive piece of playground equipment for handicapped students, Garett said.

Current equipment for disabled students only allows the child to play in a solitary manner, so the staff want to install a piece of equipment that will allow children of all abilities to play together, such as a merry go round with proper safety supports.

Garrett estimates installation of that equipment will use the entire grant, if not require a bit more funding. They are still researching types of equipment to get the most out of the money they will spend.