Program aims to empower schools, make students learn healthier habits

Lauren Glassberg Image
Friday, June 17, 2016
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Lauren Glassberg reports on an eduational program designed to teach students healthy habits

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Victoria Baluk is a chef who works for Wellness in the Schools, or 'WITS', a non-profit aimed at empowering schools to provide healthier experiences to their students.

"We come in with our chefs and our coaches, but the school has to be invested in this, and has to see their own goals to create healthier places to learn together - we can't do it alone," said Nancy Easton.

Easton was a school principal before she founded WITS eleven years ago. When WITS teams with a school, it sends over coaches to coordinate more active recess periods. Chefs work with cafeteria staff to revamp school menus to feature made-from-scratch meals and more salads and vegetables instead of processed food.

New York Chef Bill Telepan leads the charge for WITS.

"We got into a lot of high poverty schools and areas where there are food deserts, not a lot of fresh food available, and we give them lessons, life lessons of what healthy eating is, and that's what it's about," says Telepan.

After three years of WITS training, schools run on their own. The New Settlement School in the Bronx is an example of that, but students still get treated to lab classes where they learn about nutrition and cooking.

The program gives students a sense of pride, and puts them on a healthy path.

WITS is in 75 schools and this year they are serving 34,000 children. The goal is to get WITS to 800 schools city-wide.