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Duquesne Elementary Becomes First Live Well Allegheny School

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

Students at Duquesne Elementary School in the Mon Valley spent Tuesday running, jumping and playing, all in the name of health.

“It was really exciting to be going through the school, going through the play area, the gym, seeing the Move-a-thon, seeing the kids doing yoga, and relay races and the dancing and the nutrition, having meals with fruits and vegetables,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who joined the kids for a couple of yoga poses during Tuesday’s event.

Duquesne students, teachers and administrators spent the day celebrating their designation as the first Live Well Allegheny school in the county, as part of the Health Department’s comprehensive program designed to encourage residents to adopt healthier habits.

“Our basic theory is, if we can surround people with all of these healthy options, we’re going to make it a lot easier to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker.

Tuesday’s event was made possible with participation from various community partners. Soldiers from the Marines and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard showed the kids marching cadences, students from California University of Pennsylvania led them in relay races, and an instructor from the Hott Spot guided them in a basic yoga practice.

To be considered a Live Well Allegheny school, Duquesne had to implement at least four initiatives aimed at increasing student health and wellness.

Principal Jennifer Jennings said one of the biggest changes has been with the school lunches.

“We have incorporated all of the requirements that healthy lunches need, like substituting whole wheat for white (bread) and including more fruits and vegetables,” Jennings said.

Jennings said Duquesne students also enjoy healthy snacks in their classrooms three days a week, have recess every day, and are planting a school garden.

Additionally, teachers and school administrators are trying to reach out to parent to be sure that lessons about healthy eating and living are continued at home.

“Any chance we get to communicate with the parents, we make sure we put in the plug for why fresh fruits and vegetables are so important to the learning for their children when they come to school,” Jennings said.

Live Well Allegheny Schools are also required to share students’ body mass index (BMI) data with the county, so it can begin to measure the effectiveness of the initiative.

According to the 2009-2010 Allegheny County Health Survey, 68 percent of males, and 57 percent of females were overweight or obese based on BMI.

Though the effectiveness of using BMI to determine a person’s level of health has been criticized widely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still calls it a “reliable indicator of body fatness for most people.”

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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