TURNER — Tripp Middle School has achieved the highest award possible for being a healthy school as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s HealthierUS School Challenge.

Tripp is the first middle school in Maine to receive a Gold Award, said U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon, who came to the school Thursday to deliver the award.

“We tip our hats to the Tripp Middle School,” Concannon said. “Thank you for making sure students have access to the best of the best. In the United States there are 100,000 public schools. Of that, fewer than 1,000 have earned the Gold Award. That’s 1 percent.”

He credited the school’s teachers, administration, students, parents and RSU 52 directors and leaders.

Tripp Middle School earned the award because of its health and physical education classes that all students must take in seventh and eighth grades, and the school’s healthy lunch program.

School lunches include a salad bar, fresh fruit and vegetables. French fries are baked, breads and pizza crusts are made from whole grains, salt content of food is low and cheeses are low-fat.

Thursday’s lunch offered a barbecued pulled pork sandwich on a whole wheat bun. The meat was baked and the protein portion wasn’t large, Food Service Director David Roberts said.

He said the price of school lunches went up this year, to $2.75 from $2.50.

Healthy eating is one of the most important things in schools, Concannon said. Across the nation, 31 million schoolchildren eat meals as part of the national lunch program. Work has been done to make school lunches healthier, but “all of us can do better,” Concannon said. “We eat too many processed foods.”

At the award assembly before the school’s 300 students, physical education teacher Brian LaFlamme said he teaches cardiovascular health in his classes. Students demonstrated as he spoke.

In front of the stage, students Audrey Varney, David Herman, Seth Ramser and Hyla Webster ran laps back and forth, starting with a slow jog then picking up speed. They ran for a good five minutes.

On the stage, other students demonstrated curls and push-ups.

Health teacher Marcia Fuller’s students gave presentations on what they’ve learned about healthy food choices.

“We live in a super-size world,” said Jillian Rombalski, 14, showing off a poster of a huge burger-and-fries meal, compared to a smaller-portioned meal from 30 years ago.

Portion sizes exploded in the 1980s, she said.

“People thought they were getting a great deal,” Rombalski said. “What they were really getting is extra calories and poor health. Did you know that 30 years ago a bagel was 3 inches and 140 calories? Today, a typical bagel is 6 inches and 350 calories.”

Rombalski said it’s critical to read labels, to know the calories, fat content and ingredients in food. She cautioned that processed foods aren’t healthy, and the longer the list of ingredients, “the more likely there’s hidden sugar and the food is highly processed.”

School Principal Gail Marine told the gathering she received a letter from Michelle Obama informing her the school had won the Gold Award. She read the letter: “Tripp Middle School is among the very best of the best, going above and beyond minimum requirements” to help students live full and healthy lives. “It’s a big step toward reducing childhood obesity. This is an extraordinary accomplishment.”

Sitting on the stage and receiving individual certificates from Concannon were Roberts, the food service director; the principal; the health and physical education teachers; and food service workers Lisa Keen, Jessica Hafford and Christine Wilbur.

Four years ago, the district’s elementary schools received a Silver Award, also under the direction of Roberts. Since then, he’s spoken to many school districts interested in improving meal offerings.

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TURNER — Thursday was not the first time SAD 52 students have been told they’re eating some of the healthiest school meals in the nation.

In October 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented Silver Awards to Greene Central, Leeds Central, Turner Primary and Turner Elementary schools.

The Silver Award is one of the highest school nutrition awards in the HealthierUS School Challenge. To read that 2010 story go to: https://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/925285


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