Washington Elementary Principal Jeff Lockenvitz knew a decision to eliminate food rewards from his classrooms was going to be tough to swallow.
"Obviously, some kids were a little bit upset because it's a change in their past practice,” said Lockenvitz.
But the increased focus on healthy eating and wellness has been district wide.
"We thought we'd really have to take a look at what we're doing and take District 87 to the next level,” said Julie McCoy, director of nutrition for District 87.
Those efforts begin in the cafeteria, with fresh fruits and vegetables. They're also serving something different in gym class. The kids are learning sports like tennis that they can compete in once they're finished with school.
Obesity rates are becoming near epidemic nationwide. So, in 2012, the district started revamping its wellness standards with an $18,000 health grant.
It has also brought in a team of health care consultants and parents for input.
"We really wanted to enhance our physical education, our curriculum, being more consistent across the district,” said McCoy.
Often, that will mean incorporating healthy eating habits into physical education, but it's not just the kids who are part of the efforts to overhaul the system.
"If the employees aren't healthy, we can't model good behavior for the students. So, it really is a full circle process,” said McCoy.
“I have trouble with willpower, and it dawned on me that maybe some of our other kids do and we need to change what we're doing here at school and model for them good, healthy eating practices,” said Lockenvitz.
The district has also purchased software that it's hoping will track student progress in the future. Officials hope to find a correlation between fitness levels and academic success.
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