Kearney Public Schools weighs in on successful wellness model

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Updated: Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:34:48 CST

Out with the fryer, the pop machine and sugary snacks.

Over 99% of Nebraska schools are following recently implemented federal standards for school meals.

One Nebraska school is a model of success above the rest.

It's lunchtime at Sunrise Middle School in Kearney.

"I chose the spicy chicken tenders, apple and some other vegetables." Said 6th grade student, Dayton Nelson.

Do you notice anything surprising?

"Potatoes and ham and pineapples." Said 6th grade student, Olivia Harbowls of her lunch.

Nothing fried, nothing fatty.

"I have the spicy chicken nuggets and carrots and green peppers." Said 6th grade student, Justin Baumert.

Almost every student's plate is filled with fruits and veggies.

The district is following federal guidelines implemented in 2012, but they started revamping the wellness program 8 years ago.

"We started doing different things in the kitchen in terms of how we were preparing food and what we were presenting kids. We took vending machines with sugary pop and snacks out." Explained KPS Associate Superintendent, Dr. Carol Renner.

Earlier this week as students were filling their plates with healthy eats, representatives with Kearney Public Schools were in Washington D.C., serving up fresh ideas.

KPS was chosen to take part in the Pew Charitable Trust national gathering, supporting school nutrition.

"We have it ingrained in our school system that healthy kids is what it's all about." Said Dr. Renner.

Nationwide one third of students are obese. Kearney Public Schools is already turning that trend around. By measuring Body Mass Index, the district has tracked a 22% decrease in obesity among students since 2006.

"We've seen the families embrace healthy living and it makes us feel great."  Said Dr. Renner.

This week, Dr. Renner urged lawmakers to continue support wellness programs in schools.

"If the funding continues we'll see kids eating healthier diets and staying healthier and being more active." Said Dr. Renner.

Students are already buying into the fruit and veggie trend.

"I eat them because they're good and healthy for you and they'll help with my soccer." Said Nelson.

Kearney Public Schools is the first district in the state to track students' BMI, aut Dr. Renner says its likely more schools will be jumping on the bandwagon, as a tool of measuring student wellness.