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HES ‘Fuels Up’ to get healthy

Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Holly Bradley, right, serves fresh smoothies to students at Hillsboro Elementary School Wednesday as part of the Local Foods Day and Fuel Up to Play 60 kick-off celebration. S. Stewart photo
Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Holly Bradley, right, serves fresh smoothies to students at Hillsboro Elementary School Wednesday as part of the Local Foods Day and Fuel Up to Play 60 kick-off celebration. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Athletes with the NFL do it and now the students at Hillsboro Elementary School do it – Fuel Up to Play 60 that is.

Physical education teacher Maria McCoy applied for a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant last year and recently received $3,500 to implement the program. While the program stresses the importance of being active for 60 minutes a day, it also focuses on the importance of healthy eating.

Working with Coordinator of Child Nutrition and Food Services Lisa Dennison, McCoy designed a plan to get the students in Hillsboro healthier and more active.

For the healthy eating portion of the program, McCoy was inspired by what she saw in the cafeteria to create a friendly competition among the grades.

“My lunch duty consists of monitoring the kindergarten, first and second grades,” she said. “I have to dump the trays. I’m look at all this food and I’m like ‘these kids aren’t eating their food.’ There’s a lot of waste going on.

“So, I’m going to have a competition,” she continued. “I’m going to monitor the entree and the vegetables, and the milk for lunch. I’m going to get twelve trash cans – two for each grade. However much they throw away is going to be weighed. It’s going to be based on a percentage and the class with the least amount of food and milk thrown away will win a trophy. I’m going to have a banner for the Healthy Eating Class of the Month and the class can carry their trophy down to the lunch room, and put it on their table.”

The competition will be monthly, giving each class a chance to win the trophy.

For the active part, McCoy is shopping around for new gym equipment.

“I want to get some scooters because they love playing scooter soccer, where they sit on the scooters and they have the ball, and they have to throw it,” she said. “I was going to get some noodles because some of the activities need noodles. I’m going to buy some double dutch ropes because a lot of the kids don’t know how to jump rope.”

McCoy plans to stretch the grant money as far as it will go in order to get the best bang for her buck. She also plans to purchase retractable nets for badminton, tennis and volleyball.

“I bought all new badminton rackets last year and I want to use them more,” she said. “Our gym is so utilized during the year that I need nets that are retractable or are easy to move. I’m looking at probably three movable non-stationary nets. They can be used as badminton nets, volleyball nets, and for tennis.”

The Fuel Up to Play 60 program comes equipped with a playbook, similar to those used by football players. Once a student is signed up, he or she can pick a game play to complete. Each game play they finish earns points that can be used for prizes – including a trip to an NFL football game.

“They do these game plays on monitoring what they eat, monitoring how much they exercise,” McCoy explained. “They basically monitor everything that involves keeping their body healthy and they earn points. Those points allow them to register for certain contests, like going to a professional football game.”

The students are competing nationally in the Fuel Up contests. Once a student earns more than 20,000 points, they are eligible to be an ambassador for their school in the program.

“You have to be eleven-years-old or in fifth grade going into the sixth grade,” McCoy said. “You can either raise money or you can apply for a grant from the Fuel Up to Play 60 to go to ambassador camp and meet professional football players. Here, it gives us an opportunity because a lot of these kids don’t get the chance to do things like this. If you work hard and you do what you’re supposed to, and you keep your body healthy, then you have the opportunity of succeeding and going on to do something that no one else may ever get to do.”

The Fuel Up bug has already bitten the students and have fueled their competitive sides.

“I had one little second grader leave me a note that said she signed up for Fuel Up to Play 60,” McCoy said. “She’s already asking what to do next. I told her, ‘you continue doing this; the school continues, then when you get to be in the fifth grade, if you have gained enough points, you will be the ambassador for all of Hillsboro School.’ That gives her an incentive to keep up and exercise.”

The school kicked-off the Fuel Up to Play 60 program last Wednesday with a football toss competition. The students had to throw footballs through suspended hula hoops in order to win points for their class. It was just the beginning of the healthy activities students have in store for them.

“There are so many things you can do to keep your body healthy and to keep your mind healthy,” McCoy said. “I know we don’t all eat healthy all the time. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t eat healthy all the time, but the more you’re conscious about what you eat, the healthier you do eat.”

In conjunction with the kick-off, the Farm-to-School initiative had a Local Foods Day in the cafeteria. For breakfast, Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Holly Bradley served fresh smoothies.

“It has organic blueberries and strawberries from Steve Saffel’s farm and orange juice,” Bradley said. “This is our second Local Foods Day. Our first one was at Marlinton Middle School.”

The local foods continued into lunch with eggs, potatoes, onions and sausage all from Saffel’s farm.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at

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