Harold Soule willed his arms to move faster and scurried down the track at Del Norte High School, a set jaw inches away from the asphalt.
Harold Soule on his way to a first-place finish in a scooter relay on Thursday. Del Norte Triplicate / Jessica Cejnar
His teammates shrieked with delight — they were winning.
One by one, Harold’s friends slithered down the track, first hands then feet propelling their scooters. When they finished the scooter relay first, Harold did a version of the popular “Gangnam Style” dance.
“We won both relays,” said the fourth-grader from Pine Grove Elementary School. “The hands weren’t as hard as the feet.”
Harold and his classmates joined fourth- and fifth-graders from across the county to celebrate Nutrition Adventure Day on Thursday. Mentored by 40 high school students, nearly 500 youngsters participated in relays and tag games, received healthy snacks and went home with a goodie bag full of information courtesy of the Del Norte County Unified School District’s Nutrition Project.
But after more than five years, the teens and youngsters were celebrated Nutrition Adventure Day for the last time.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Deborah Kravitz, the district’s director of food services. “A lot of work went into it.”
Nutrition Adventure Day is the culmination of a year’s worth of education Del Norte’s school kids have received from the Nutrition Project. But because the $500,000 Network for a Healthy California grant that funds the project is set to end in September, the Nutrition Project is expected to end at the end of this month.
Kravitz, who had been the Nutrition Project coordinator, will work next school year as the district’s director of food services, replacing retiring director Judy Wangerin. Most Nutrition Project staff members received layoff notices at the School Board’s April 25 meeting.
“We were all so disappointed to hear that the grant was ending,” said Knela Newton, a fourth-grade teacher at Joe Hamilton Elementary School. “We had fresh fruit and vegetables three days a week.”
They were divided into two groups, fruits and vegetables, said Del Norte High sophomore Alberto Barraza. When a staff member held up a photo of a fruit or a vegetable, those players infiltrated the other side’s territory with their opponent hot on their tail. If a fruit tagged a vegetable, that vegetable would become part of the fruit team, and vice versa, he said.
Barraza, who helped fix the tape that denoted the makeshift court’s bounds, said he volunteered to participate in the program because he thought it sounded like fun.
When the buzzer sounded, signaling that it was time for the students to move to the next activity, Newton and her students headed over to the running man game. Another relay-type game, students stood on opposite sides, unwinding or winding a spool of rope with a plastic running figure attached. The first team whose “running man” did a full lap won.
“They’re having so much fun they don’t even know they’re exercising,” Newton said.
As her students look forward to summer vacation, Nutrition Adventure Day reinforces how important it is to choose healthy snacks and eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible, Newton said.
The Nutrition Project is fun, said fourth-grader Ashley Mickee.
“It’s fun to try all the new foods we’ve never tried before,” she said, adding that her favorite was vanilla yogurt. “It’s part of the dairy family and it keeps the body healthy.”
Kravitz has said she is working to keep the Nutrition Program’s core programs, especially Harvest of the Month and garden-enhanced nutrition education. She is also working with the University of California’s Cooperative Extension program and Del Norte County’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make sure local youths continue to receive nutrition education.