New tool offers personalized approached to healthful living
OREGON COUNTY -- University of Missouri Extension Nutrition Program Associate Valerie Kuczek spends a large portion of her time educating the students in the four public schools in the county about healthful eating choices.
Kuczek uses a new tool when teaching the students, MyPyramid 101. This creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a personalized approach to healthful eating and physical activity. It has been developed to remind consumers to make healthy food choices and to be active every day.
The old guide, The Food Guide Pyramid, was released in 1992. Health officials, scientists and nutritionists combined their resources and experience to develop the new guide.
"The old Food Guide Pyramid was not always easy to follow. For example, it might say eat six to eight servings of grains a day and never explain what a serving is. The new guide converts everything to cups and ounces," Kuczek said.
She said another difference between the two programs is the new guide offers a sixth food group, oils that can be found in foods such as canned tuna.
Kuczek said every five years the government convenes a group of experts to review what is known about health and nutrition.
"New information about what makes a healthy lifestyle may influence recommendations for the guide. MyPyramid is the best current advice we can give people about how to choose healthful foods and be more active," she said.
She said a federal law was passed last June in conjunction with President Bush's School Wellness Program.
"All schools are to have this program in place by the beginning of school 2006. Nurses at the school are usually in charge of putting the program together," she said.
"Boards should be formed at the school and should include teachers, students, school board members, administrators and members of the community. This is a positive thing and should help reduce some serious heath issues in children and adults like diabetes II and obesity. Parents at schools might actually, finally, have a chance to say they don't want soda and candy in machines in schools but had rather have juice and water as well as fresh fruits and vegetables," she said.
She reaches students in preschool through 12th grade. The lessons she teaches in nutrition are geared toward the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP.
She said the Alton School District has seen improvements in their health test scores in MAP testing over the years and attributes the improvements to the Extension nutrition program.
Kuczek said nearly all states in the country have some type of nutrition program like the one in Oregon County. "It is a federally funded program that comes from federal matching funds. It is actually funded through the food stamp program," she said.
Besides schools, Kuczek lends her nutrition expertise to churches and organizations. She coordinates the Food Power program when it comes to a school in the county and teaches nutrition in classes sometimes 30 hours a week.