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Education on Centre: BEA lands top prize in nutrition challenge

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Bald Eagle Area School District can claim bragging rights — and an extra $500 — as this year’s winners of the annual Nutrition Habit Challenge.

The NHC was established three years ago by One on One Fitness owners Bruce and Kym Burke, as a friendly competition to be held each February for the community and school districts that serve Centre County.

“We created the NHC to educate and inspire members of our community to make better choices not only with their diets, but also their exercise habits and lifestyle choices,” Bruce Burke said in an email. “We have created a platform to do that, but we need thousands of participants in order to succeed in truly impacting our community’s health. If we have 10,000 participants, and 20 percent of them have lasting, meaningful change, we have helped 2,000 people live healthier lives. That is the end game.”

The competition started Feb. 1 and lasted through the month.

In its first year, 720 people participated by making dietary changes and practicing their change for 28 days, Burke said.

Last year, more than 2,200 people participated.

This year BEA won a $500 donation to the school’s wellness committee, a banner for the winner to display in their school and two copies of “FUNdamentals of Fitness,” a fitness-based physical education guide co-written by local authors Ryan Burke, of One on One Fitness, and Penn State professor Alison Weimer.

A press release said the district also received complementary invitations for two physical education teachers to a FUNdamentals of Fitness workshop.

The NHC School Challenge was available to students, staff and families within the districts.

The winning district was chosen based on the number of successful participants divided by the total number of students in the district, the press release said.

State College Area finished second; followed by Penns Valley Area, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy and Our Lady of Victory in third; Philipsburg-Osceola Area in fourth; and Bellefonte Area in fifth place.

“The Nutrition Habit Challenge not only challenged us all as individuals, but allowed our wellness council to begin the process of putting our district wellness policies into action,” BEA PE teacher Danielle Butterworth said. “The NHC started important discussions about increased availability/consumption of water in our schools, providing healthier snacks during celebrations and offering rewards other than food. The NHC’s message that making small changes can lead to improved quality of life really resonated with us. Now that many of us have been successful, we feel empowered to support others in their journey toward a healthier lifestyle as well. This has been a wonderful experience and opportunity for our friends and families here at BEA.”

BEA PE teacher Brandy Urbanik said families cut soda from their diets and increased their water intake, while others packed salad for lunch instead of going out for fast food.

“The NHC also inspired many to address their step counts for the day and increase their physical activity,” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity for us here at BEA. ... We learned that small changes can make a big difference in our health. It’s so worth it.”

The challenge requires participants choose a nutritional behavior they commit to changing.

But the catch is that it must be significant enough to positively affect their health, and manageable enough to complete through the month, Burke said.

If successful for at least 25 days, the participant is eligible for a prize drawing that also includes a trip for four to Walt Disney World.

State College Area High School student Sahar Memari won the Disney trip last year.

Her commitment was to drink half her body weight in ounces of water each day of the challenge.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

NHC strategies used by BEA:

▪ Inviting NHC committee members to attend the first wellness council meeting of the 2015-16 school year with the superintendent and other administrators

▪ Showcasing the challenge on the district’s Web page, including the link to register

▪ Teaching goal-setting lesson plans provided by the NHC in health classes

▪ Doing a “practice challenge” in January with middle school health classes using the lesson plan packet provided by the NHC

▪ Sending district emails encouraging faculty, staff, administrators to participate

▪ Sharing personal NHC commitments among coworkers

▪ Sending letters home to increase family participation

▪ Offering a districtwide competition for BEA participants with a chance to win a Fitbit

One on One Fitness