School Wellness Award “Just the Beginning” at Lynch View Elementary School, Centennial School District

One of three Oregon schools recognized with an “Oregon School Wellness Award, Principal Jim Mangan says that the schools’ commitment to wellness is “only increasing”

It took a big team for Lynch View Elementary School to earn one of Oregon’s three annual School Wellness Awards, and most of that team was there to celebrate last Wednesday morning, from the teachers through the Superintendent. The 400 K-6 students – the most critical part of that team – all came to a special assembly where the award was presented. But instead of focusing on what they’ve already accomplished, Principal Jim Mangan stayed focused on what’s to come, by reminding them about the “Fund-Run” fundraiser this week, for which students are raising pledges per lap they run. When he asked them what the funds will be used for, the students rattled off a long list of healthy needs: PE, field trips, instruments, playground and gym equipment. Happily, Lynch View made a big dent in their fundraising goal on Wednesday morning, when staff from the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Dairy Council co-presented a plaque and a check for $2,500 to the school.

After the assembly, which ended with “The Lynch View Song” (to the familiar melody of “This Land is your Land”), visitors to the school were treated to a tour of some of the healthy highlights on campus, followed by a delicious “Local Lunch.”

One stop on the tour was to Mr. Whipps’ class of second-graders for a “brain break”, which looked and felt a lot like a mini-Zumba lesson. Another was hearing from Metropolitan Family Service (MFS) SUN Community School Site Manager Ginny Scelza about all the ways the Multnomah County SUN program supports the students and the community, from actual Zumba classes for adults (with free childcare) to dinner and summer meal programs for the kids, to ensure they all get the nutrition they need to thrive. Ms. Scelza even manages an on-campus food pantry in cooperation with the Oregon Food Bank, since 90% of the students come from low-income families. Diane Cervi, parent of a third grader and the Lynch View representative to the District Wellness Committee, also shared about the campus efforts to plant more trees and to develop an outdoor learning space (still in progress). Superintendent Sam Breyer promised that there wouldn’t be much red tape, as that effort continues.  

At lunch, district Wellness Coordinator Julie Mack shared about the special ingredients in the “lLocal lunch” that were purchased with the help of Centennial’s Farm to School grant from the Oregon Department of Education: Sloppy Joes made with turkey from Willamette Valley Meat and BBQ sauce from Heritage Specialty Foods, a salad made with spinach from Fry Family Farms and a strawberry vinaigrette the staff made using Stahlbush Farms frozen berries, and fresh radishes from Groundwork Farms. The salad bar included cooked vegetables from FlavorPac, as well as non-local strawberries, oranges, and bananas.

All the visitors agreed that lunch was absolutely delicious. (Additional entrée options included PB&J, grilled cheese, bagels, and hot dogs.) The district’s dining services director, John Walker, traded compliments with Ms. Mack about who was more responsible for the ever-improving school meals program. Business Operations Director Rick Larson, who makes the finances work for all these efforts, stood by in silent support of them both. Participants (adults or kids!) who tried the local foods – or anything new to them – were rewarded with “I tried it” stickers, from Ms. Mack. “The stickers start conversations with parents,” Ms. Scelza said later. “Kids can be the change in their families: kids getting to know new and healthy foods at school can change what the parents buy and eat at home, too, so the effect ripples out into healthier families.”

In closing, Ms. Mack shared the secret to Lynch View’s success: “Centennial jumped on the wellness bandwagon, and we stayed on. It’s a team effort and it starts from the top, with district leadership and school board members on the Wellness Committee. Plus people are really open to trying new things – it’s a perfect-sized district for innovation.”

Whatever it is, it’s a recipe for success, because Lynch View is the 2nd school in Centennial to win one of the prestigious wellness awards. Congratulations, and keep it up!

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