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Building healthy youth from the ground up

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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This past weekend, the WSU Master Gardeners held the first of their series of gardening workshops for 2016.

The topic was building healthy soil through composting. The speakers identified several ways to compost materials to then be returned to the soil as nutrients and soil conditioners.

Many of you may not know that the Master Gardener program is only a small part of my job duties. In fact, a much larger portion of my position is managing the SNAP Ed nutrition education program in Mason County for WSU Extension.

If you have had children in school in Shelton, Pioneer, Hood Canal and Mary M. Knight school districts, you may remember them talking about "the food lady" or you may have wondered who it was they were speaking to in the grocery store.

Our program hires and trains nutrition educators to take lessons and food into the classrooms to teach the students why choosing healthy foods and getting enough physical activity is important for their body's health.

Just like plants, our bodies need nutrients to grow, repair and build new cells, and fight disease.

Compost is broken down to become a new, soil-building material containing nutrients for the plants. In that same way, traditional models in schools and other places where we live, work and play need to be "broken down" to become something that will "feed" and nourish our community members.

It is my mission to assist school districts, parents and staff to break down the old system that has been in place, to implement new, innovative strategies that are proven to reduce absenteeism, increase test scores and reduce childhood obesity which can lead to life-threatening chronic conditions.

Today's youth is the first generation that is predicted to live shorter life spans than their parents. That is unacceptable when there are things we can do today to change that trend.

Alex Apostle, superintendent for Shelton School District, is launching the grass-roots campaign: Graduation Matters Shelton. Tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Shelton Civic Center, this new, innovative approach will be explained.

One proven approach to increasing graduation rates is to assemble wellness teams, first at the district level and ultimately one for each school. These teams will implement and monitor policies that will break down that old system and create new, healthy ways of living to improve the quality of life for all Mason County community members.

Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about this effort. I will be at the kick-off event for Graduation Matters — come by and talk to me or sign up to get more information.

Moving Mason Forward is the overarching health campaign that was the result of surveys given while developing the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).

Mason County Public Health has identified key areas to address for increasing health in the county. One focus that rose to the top of the CHIP is Healthy Living, a working group dedicated to growing a healthy community that we can enjoy now and our children and grandchildren can enjoy in the future.

It will take all of us to sow the seeds of change that will make the difference.

Contact me if you are interested in joining us to improve the health of our community.

Jeanne Rehwaldt is the extension coordinator supervisor for WSU Extension of Mason County. She can be reached at 427-9670, ext. 688.

Today's youth is the first generation that is predicted to live shorter life spans than their parents. That is unacceptable when there are things we can do today to change that trend.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 14, 2016

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