Going to school for local students will be just the simple act of opening a laptop or turning on a computer, at least for the next couple months that is.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed school districts across the region into a fall reopening that will be almost completely online, and with the low activity that remote learning begets, it will be easy for students to fall into unhealthy diets and routines.
Kids won’t have to walk to classes or bus stops. They won’t have playgrounds to run around, and it’s unknown when after school sports will start again. They won’t even have to put on shoes anymore.
Juan Trevino, Edinburg CISD’s dietitian said daily exercise is crucial during remote learning, and emphasized that physical activity does not always have to happen outside. It’s just about getting up and moving.
“There are indoor exercises that students should do,” he said. “Get some activity done, jump rope or walk around the house. Get some exercise and not be on the computer all the time.”
Trevino supervises the district’s Child Nutrition Program, and said he is glad to see many people using the bike trail close to his house. He often sees people biking and families taking afternoon walks.
Physical exercise is good for the body and mind, he noted.
“It not only helps with the physical part, it also helps with the emotional part too, of the pandemic,” he said. “With everything going on, it’s a good time for the family to get out of the house and have conversations and laugh. In my family, it’s the time when we turn off the TV and go for a walk and talk.”
Distance learning has also changed the way the school’s nutrition program serves children. The campus cafeterias that feed the Valley’s student population breakfast and lunch every weekday during school time have closed. Now, students rely on curbside meal programs or meals from home, where nutrition values are not as regulated as school menus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the nutritional standards for school meals across the nation. Some requirements include a half-cup serving of fruits and vegetables with every lunch, which in total must be at least 550 calories for elementary schools, 600 for middle schools, and 750 for high schools.
Additionally, meals can not have added trans-fat, and no more than 10% of its calories can come from saturated fat.
Since the pandemic hit in March, the district has been serving meals through its Curbside Meal Pickup Program, which is available to all ECISD students. In July, the initiative served its 2 millionth meal.
However, not all students are relying on the district for meals, Trevino said, so it is important for parents to be intentional about serving their kids foods that are rich in necessary vitamins and minerals.
“I know that we are not feeding all of the children, so I am hoping that they (parents) are providing a balanced meal every day,” he said. “… I hope parents make better decisions on what they purchase at the grocery store. I know a lot of them like the Hot Cheetos and things like that, and that the junk food is there for them, but it’s about having those things in moderation.”
With online learning, students don’t have to go outside, putting them at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which comes from the sun. However, vitamin D also comes from green vegetables and milk.
Trevino said students should be getting all the nutrients they need from food, and that parents should get advice from a physician before purchasing supplements.
Though the summer vacation is coming to an end, the physical activity that comes with a normal school year will be missing this fall.
“If they’re indoors and are just eating and eating, they could get a little chubby, but exercising helps in using some of that energy,” he said.
So, whether it is daily walks outside, or home workouts in the living room, Trevino said it is all more important now for parents to be intentional about staying active and fit.