By Crystale Lopez
Sharon Glosson, director of child nutrition for Judson Independent School District (JISD), is a 2006 UIW graduate with a Master of Science in nutrition. She recently used her experience and education to lead the school district’s quest for healthier children to national recognition and received a special opportunity to see the nation’s First Lady.
“We were notified in June 2011 that our elementary schools had received the bronze level recognition for the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) program,” Glosson said.
The HUSSC is a voluntary initiative, established in 2004, to recognize schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through nutrition and physical activity. First Lady Michelle Obama incorporated the HUSSC into her “Let’s Move!” campaign to raise a healthier generation of children. Since the program began in 2004, awards have been presented to schools in 45 states.
“We were invited by the First Lady to a reception on the South Lawn of the White House,” said Glosson. “I attended to accept the recognition, along with Christina Welch, assistant director of child nutrition, and Dr. Willis Mackey, superintendent of schools for JISD. There were several hundred people in attendance from districts across the country.”
The group had the opportunity to hear Michelle Obama speak and congratulate all the school districts on a job well done. Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), also addressed the group along with a student who shared their experience of making changes to healthier eating habits.
“It was a very motivating and exciting experience,” she said. “We were very grateful that our hard work for a healthier district had paid off. The cafeteria staff played a great part in the award as well and they felt very proud for what they had done and helped accomplish.”
The award itself focused on the implementation of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise into the students’ daily eating regimen and schedule.
Glosson worked with the school district and constructive changes were made in each of the schools and in the cafeteria kitchens. JISD took the initiative to limit food fundraisers that included candies, cookies or other snacks that would not be considered healthy or wholesome. The cafeteria also converted bread products to whole grain, a task that started out as a challenge but that the district overcame with flying colors.
“Buying whole grain products turned out to be an expensive effort,” said Glosson “Or the issue would come up that there were items that were not available. At that point the school district opted to bake their own breads from scratch for good quality.”
JISD trained their cafeteria employees on baking bread products from scratch and also began an educational effort, teaching students and employees why the changes were being made and the importance of making the changes for good health.
“The food we serve has to taste good and anything that is quality takes time, so we also try to give the students food items they are familiar with,” Glosson said. “At first the students wanted to know why the bread was brown but now they don’t even think about it.”
The school cafeterias now only serve lean meats. Food items are either baked or steamed and only 100 percent juice drinks are served. Another change that has made a difference is the district’s shift to buying fruits and vegetables from local growers. At this time, JISD schools are serving Texas grown vegetables like romaine lettuce from Pleasanton, oranges from Mission, and tomatoes from Marfa.
Parents and administrators have also noticed changes and the positive difference it is making.
“We are the nutrition experts and are responsible for answering to the parents, as well as the children, and we want to be proud of what we are serving,” she said. “Our leadership and staff make it a point to eat in the cafeteria, too, so they know what the kids are experiencing on a daily basis.”
“UIW was instrumental in continuing my education in nutrition,” Glosson said. “The professors in the nutrition department continue to be my mentors and are the ones I call on to this day with questions. Drs. Beth Senne-Duff, Neeta Singh and Joe Bonilla provided me guidance, support and a flexible learning environment that helped me earn my degree and have a full-time career.”
“When I started working for the district six years ago changes in the school lunch menus had already begun and I continued implementing those changes,” Glosson explained. “The country is focused on children’s health and at JISD we like to stay ahead of the curve for USDA regulations.”
Senne-Duff, associate professor of nutrition at UIW, said Glosson always had an inquisitive mind in class and was a motivated student.
“Nutrition is a broad field encompassing biological science, food science, psychology, sociology, and economics,” Senne-Duff said. “Good students like Sharon are curious and flexible and she was interested broadly in nutrition and the profession of dietetics.”
Senne-Duff said Glosson completed her master’s project analyzing a hospital based, family focused weight loss program for children, and it utilized an exercise and nutrition component.
“Sharon has a passion for this and she has continued to effectively implement programs to help students,” Senne-Duff said. “She is committed to the health and well-being of students.”
Glosson said her career in the nutrition field has been amazing.
“The possibilities and variety of jobs you can do with a degree in nutrition are endless,” she said. “It is also a knowledge that can be used in your personal life every day. The nutrition field is ever changing, always exciting and in demand.”