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Riverton students show plenty of heart

A team of Riverton Primary School students are so passionate about sharing healthy eating messages that even their teachers have been in the firing line.  

As well as designing a range of healthy food posters and writing a healthy lunchbox play, the six students also ran a professional development session for staff to show them how to read food labels and pack a nutritious lunchbox.  

Their hard work has been carried out under the Heart Foundation’s Heart Start Award, a free programme designed to help schools build learning environments that promote healthy eating and physical activity.  

Linda Harris, Heart Foundation Health Promotion Coordinator, says schools must complete five out of 12 available modules to achieve the Heart Start Award. 

“At Riverton Primary, this group of six students called the Heart Start team have excelled by achieving six modules. 

“Their aim was to achieve a Heart Start award for their school and, in doing so, they’ve promoted healthy eating messages not only to their peers, but also to teachers and the wider community.”

Riverton Primary School was presented with its Heart Start award at school assembly in early December. 

On their journey to achieving the award, the students initiated a sticker reward system for students who bring healthy foods in their lunchbox. They also introduced a 5+ A Day-themed colouring competition and completed a school-wide canteen survey.

Deputy Principal Nigel Easson says he is proud of how much the students have achieved.  

“They really did direct their own learning and took ownership of the Heart Start programme within the school. They worked independently and used the Heart Foundation’s resources to assist their goals and plans.”

Nigel says a highlight was having the students teach staff about healthy eating.

“That includes checking our lunchboxes and discussing how to choose healthy options. All the staff were very impressed and we all learned something,” he says. 

Student Vaughan Tihore says being a member of the RPS Heart Start Team was fun and helped him learn which foods are healthy.

“It was cool checking the teachers’ lunchboxes,” he added. 

Another student, Stacey Adams, says being involved in the student Heart Start team “was the best job and has helped me learn about healthy eating. I was surprised at how much sugar there is in sports and energy drinks.”

Team leader Jesse Baker says she was really excited to have achieved the Heart Start award for their school.

“It was a fun responsibility to be part of the team and I want to encourage future year 6 students to be involved next year. All of us would like to continue being involved in health teams next year at the colleges we attend,” she says.

The Heart Foundation’s Heart Start award is valid for two years and is open to all primary, intermediate and secondary schools in New Zealand.

Linda Harris says helping children establish healthy habits in their early years provides them with a strong foundation for good health and well-being throughout their lives.  

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