POSITION: Food service supervisor for the Iberville Parish school system.
Paula Warner received the School Nutrition Association of Louisiana’s Director of the Year award for improving nutrition and nutrition education in Iberville Parish schools. The parish was noted for the four Gold Awards of Distinction it received for meeting the criteria for the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge — an initiative of first lady Michelle Obama geared toward addressing childhood obesity. Warner has worked for the parish for 12 years.
What should parents know about nutrition?
Parents should know that getting their children to eat healthier is an investment plan, just as a college savings plan is an investment plan. It’s planning healthy meals and snacks now to produce a healthy body as children grow over the years. I would like parents to know that there is a direct correlation between healthy eating and student achievement. Studies have shown that children who are undernourished do not perform as well in the classroom as those who start the day with a good breakfast and who eat a good lunch.
What is the toughest part about your job?
Trying to reinforce healthy eating through nutrition education and reaching out to parents and community to reinforce healthy eating habits. We do, however, try to get teachers to incorporate nutrition education into lessons in the classroom. A nutrition lesson can be taught across the curriculum.
Do you enjoy cooking? And do you try to eat healthier yourself?
Yes, I do enjoy cooking, though my schedule sometimes does not allow me to cook as often as I’d like. I like to cook beans because it’s a south Louisiana favorite. My grandmother would cook a different type of beans every week. That’s where that habit was developed. My grandmother cooked beans because it was economical. A serving of beans or legumes per week is required on the new USDA meal pattern.
Are parents taking seriously the alarming obesity rates?
I think there is a growing awareness, but I don’t think that it has carried out to parents making consistent decisions to change the grocery items they purchase and the meals they prepare. I think the school environment is a great opportunity to help reshape eating habits. Parental buy-in is a must.
What are some of the ramifications if children aren’t eating healthy foods?
The obesity rate continues to soar. Health care costs continue to rise amid continued debates on how to provide adequate health care to our citizens. Practicing preventive medicine is less costly than treating diseases.
Isn’t a little junk food OK sometimes?
We eat not only from a physical need, but it has been proven that our eating habits stem from our emotions as well. There is not a “bad food” versus “good food” battle. There is, however, a battle in how we balance what we eat. An occasional dessert or other favorite food will not hurt. It also depends on how much physical exercise is done to burn calories.
Advocate staff writer Terry Jones
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