School district eyes taking part in NFL wellness program

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Students who attend PAMS and PAHS could have the opportunity to kick off a program that helps them not only get into better physical condition, but to learn to eat better, as well.

PAMS Assistant Principal Michael Guidice recently told the Punxsutawney Area School Board that the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) are helping schools across the country score big with Fuel Up to Play 60, a program to tackle childhood obesity by giving young people a voice in changing the school nutrition and physical activity environment.

“Having students make positive changes in these areas is a step in the right direction,” he said, and they become more focused, engaged and higher- achieving students in the classroom.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is a proactive response to the growing obesity epidemic and declining physical fitness of America’s youth. The national program will reach 36 million youths in 60,000 elementary, middle and high schools during the 2009-10 school year.

Guidice said the reason the district should participate is because it’s for students.

“Well-nourished, physically active kids should be better students in regards to academic achievement, attendance and behavior,” he said. “School-wise, Fuel Up to Play 60 gives you dynamic tools to meet these goals and support to make your school a healthier place.”

Guidice added that Fuel Up to Play 60 also supports the school’s wellness policy.

“It can help us achieve national health and physical education standards,” he said. “At the same time, the program aligns us with other healthy school national goals and initiatives, all of which share the goal of reducing childhood obesity.”

The program also helps students prioritize healthy eating and physical activity to help them perform better, increase self-esteem and contribute to long-term health.

Guidice said as an added bonus, Fuel Up Play 60 can also get teachers and staff eating healthy and moving more, adding that a healthier school benefits everyone.

“Of course, if you eat better and exercise, there’ll be better attendance from students and teachers, and that benefits everyone,” he said.

The program is supported by the NFL, NDC, Department of Agriculture, IUP and many others, and is currently utilized by 60,000 schools across the country.

The pilot program was held in State College and tied in through IUP, but most of the participating schools are within driving distance to IUP.

To participate, the district must accept a dietetic intern from IUP with proper clearances, enroll in the program and help students run it, as well as create a wellness team, hold a wellness investigation, a kick-off event and apply for funding.