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Students challenged to make schools healthier

Students are being encouraged to show how they can make their schools healthier.

Now in its fifth year, the Healthy Schools Recognition Program encourages school communities to pledge to do something healthy, such as:

•planting a vegetable garden on school grounds;

•establishing a daily running or walking club;

•starting a recycling or composting program; or

•inviting health professionals to speak with students about fitness and teen health.

Research shows a healthy school environment enhances learning and success in school, as well as provides academic, social, emotional, and physical benefits.

This program engages students by helping them take their health into their own hands and providing them with the tools they need to lead active, healthy lives in the future.

Schools should submit their pledge by April 8. Participating schools will receive a certificate and pennant to display.

“We know that there is an important link between healthy schools, healthier students, and increased student achievement,” said Education minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“This program challenges students to find fun, creative ways to promote healthier living in their schools,” she noted.

“Allowing students to develop projects to promote healthy living is a fun and effective way to encourage an entire school to live healthy, active lives,” echoed Chris Markham, executive director and CEO of Ophea.

Over the last four years, more than 2,200 schools have pledged to undertake some 8,800 healthy activities.

Since 1975, childhood obesity has tripled in Canada.

To help encourage healthy eating, as of September, 2011, all schools will be required to meet new nutrition standards for food and beverages offered for sale in schools, including cafeterias and vending machines.

Physical activity is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle and can help fight obesity, which is why all elementary school students in Ontario are required to take part in moderate to vigorous physical activity for 20 minutes every school day.

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