Food & Fitness
In the wake of the recent focus on Madison schools’ lunches and cafeterias by the HBO documentary series, The Weight of the Nation, MMS remains diligently focused on the fit minds and fit bodies of our students. Not only do nearly 90% of our Upper Elementary and Junior High students participate in after-school team sports, Lower Elementary students attend a 45-minute athletics class every week and participate in five 30-minute active play recess sessions every week. Upper Elementary and Junior High students also attend two 80-minute athletics classes every week and three 30-minute recess sessions every week.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. In the CDC’s most recent report (2008), nearly 20% of children 6-11 years old were considered obese, up from 7% of children in 1980. At MMS, we recognize that students are with us for the majority of their waking hours, and that educating students to be successful well beyond academics is critical for an adult life characterized by good health and effective daily habits. It is with that philosophy and the larger national epidemic in mind that we created our low-sugar, low-salt food policy. That, coupled with the emphasis we place on physical activity and outdoor play, sets MMS uniquely apart at a time when many other schools are cutting recess and physical education as well as struggling to develop solutions for healthy eating at school.
Our lunch service provider, Fresh & Safe, is already poised and ready for the upcoming July 1st changes to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), which will include increased offerings of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains for students. In fact, in May of this year, Fresh & Safe joined forces with the Milwaukee Food Council to select and begin working with local farmers markets to increase the amount of fresh foods on our menu for the 2012/13 school year.
Beyond the obvious benefits of preventing obesity and preparing for lifelong fitness and healthy living habits, we know that physical exercise has a positive impact on student learning. Over the past two decades, many schools have cut back physical education in an effort to increase academic test scores, yet studies reveal that when time away from academic subjects is used for physical education, it leads to better academic performance in all subjects.
Our Head of School, Monica Van Aken, has written about the issues of fitness, diet and outdoor activity a number of times. In the article, MMS wins State Champion Award from President's Counsel on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, she cited Dr. John Ratey’s research on the topic of physical activity and academic performance. Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist and Harvard professor, has written extensively on the benefits of exercise, which he describes as “food for the brain.” Ratey says that exercise stimulates development of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the “area that is very key to our memory and learning capacity.” He says that the elimination of outdoor recess and athletics classes in favor of more classroom time is a “tragedy.”
Luckily, here at MMS, we are already providing your children the tools and guidance they need to be fit in mind and body.