Pine Bluff School District staff and Wellness Committee participated in professional development sessions including “Kids in the Kitchen.”

Held Feb. 18 at Belair Academy, the event featured an interactive nutrition session conducted by Pia Woods, staff chair and agent with 4-H Youth Development at the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service.

Participants divided into groups to prepare and sample four healthy recipes: Stir-fry vegetables, fried rice with chicken, vegetable egg rolls and apple pie egg rolls.

Woods stressed the importance of introducing youth to new foods and different forms of physical activity and encouraging youth and parents to adopt healthier lifestyles, according to a news release.

The event also included an informative session on opioids presented by Liz Mercer, RN and community health nurse specialist with the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative.

The committee meets monthly and consists of district coaches, physical education (P.E.) teachers, school nurses, social workers, food service staff, and other district personnel. Robbie C. Williams, director of student health and wellness support, is the coordinator.

The committee’s goal is to increase knowledge of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, and to determine key issues affecting student health and wellness, according to the release.

The Wellness Committee has partnered with the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service and through joint efforts are targeting those issues through both direct and indirect educational efforts.

District classes also focus on following the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations through MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to Woods.

“Youth participate in hands-on healthy living activities that include interactive games, experiments and cooking classes,” Woods said. “They then receive reinforcement materials, such as handouts and magazines, to take home and share with their parents and family, so that the ‘healthy living’ continues beyond the classroom.”

“I am so proud and grateful to be a partner with the Pine Bluff School District on their health and wellness initiatives. Mrs. Williams and her committee show such dedication and enthusiasm and their efforts are to be commended,” Woods said.

Woods also said that a couple of schools in the White Hall School District and all schools in the Dollarway, Pine Bluff, and Watson Chapel school districts are eligible for similar programming through Extension’s Supplemental Nutrition for Active People Education (SNAP-Ed) Program. School eligibility for the program is based on the percentage of enrolled students who receive free or reduced-price meals.

Details: Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service, 870-534-1033.

The Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.