Healthy breakfast connected to student success

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Southridge Middle School seventh-grader Arrington Hartke received a sample of snack mix from Erin Meyer, a parent member of the school's wellness team, during Get Cooking, a free community event, at the school in Huntingburg on Tuesday evening. "It's so good. I love the apricots," said Arrington.


HUNTINGBURG — Teachers can tell the difference between kids who eat Pop-Tarts and gulp down sugary drinks before class in the morning and those who eat something healthier, like whole grain pumpkin pancakes with a fruit and veggie smoothie.

And while it may seem at first that one of those options is much more convenient and cheaper than the other, about a hundred Southridge Middle School students and parents learned Tuesday evening that making a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be a burden on your time or wallet.

“We see that with our kids — when they come in and are fed well, slept well and ready to go — we see them perform better here in the school,” said Aaron Wiles, the middle school’s HEROES coordinator. “They last throughout the day.”

As part of the school’s HEROES (Healthy, Energetic, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic Schools) Initiative, Wiles and fellow HEROES council members as well as representatives from Purdue Extension set up booths Tuesday evening in the school’s gymnasium to display health-positive, quick-fix breakfasts in a free event open to the community. These included chocolate chip zucchini muffins, berry and greens smoothies, cereal snack mix, pumpkin pancakes and berry ginger refrigerated oatmeal.

Erin Meyer, a parent member of the school's wellness team, demonstrated how to make a snack mix during Get Cooking, a free community event, at Southridge Middle School in Huntingburg on Tuesday evening.

The HEROES Initiative is a three-year program that helps schools facilitate things like increasing the nutritional value of all foods served on school campuses, utilizing a research-proven education program to increase the number of minutes spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, and increasing opportunities for children to receive health education that reinforces healthy lifestyle choices.

While some of the foods displayed Tuesday require the use of an oven or blender to create, the prep time for the snack mix — which includes whole-wheat cereals like Cheerios or Chex, raisins and dried fruit — is just two minutes.

Among the simple morning meal advice dished out by experts was to include whole grains in breakfast. Martha Lopez, Purdue Extension nutrition education program assistant, said whole grains lower your risk of disease and offer many nutrients that help fill you up that refined grains — such as white flour and white bread — do not. According to an event flier, refined grains may provide energy but they are missing many of the benefits of whole grain foods.

Shelly Leathers attended the event as a parent. Her daughter, Clair, is a sixth-grader at Southridge. Shelly admitted that while she makes sure her kids eat healthy lunches and dinners, breakfast is hard for her. She said the event was helpful in finding easy-to-make ideas and she plans to attend similar events in the future.

“They’ve all been helpful,” she said of the various booths. “I’ve not thought about putting spinach leaves in a smoothie. You don’t even realize there’s greens in it when you drink it or see it.”

Ashlee Sudbury, community wellness coordinator with Purdue Extension, passed out pumpkin whole wheat pancakes to Southridge Middle School eighth-graders Emily Roby, left, Melissa Macias, Karly Barnett and Madelyn Lau during the event. Hannah Thyen of Huntingburg, far left, attended with her son Kyan, a seventh grader.

The kids were on board as well. After hitting every station, Southridge seventh-grader Kyan Thyen proclaimed, “All this food, it’s amazing.”

Wiles said he would like to highlight the ideas and products of local companies and groups at future HEROES events. The group’s goal is to host community events once every school quarter.

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