New York Jets linebacker Marques Murrell and New Jersey Department of Agriculture representatives visited Berkeley Township Elementary School in Bayville on Wednesday to celebrate the school's commitment to good nutrition and increased activity. Berkeley Township Elementary School was one of five winners this school year in the Eat Right, Move More program.
"We thank the Jets for partnering with the Department of Agriculture in stressing to students the importance of eating the nutritious food offered in our state's school cafeterias and increasing their activity levels," said state Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. "Berkeley Township Elementary School has demonstrated that good nutrition and being physically active is as important to a growing child as is nourishing the mind."
Eat Right, Move More, a partnership between the Jets and the Department of Agriculture, encourages New Jersey school children to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active. It challenged New Jersey schools to submit their meal menus to determine the schools with the most creative meal selections and that have made the most significant changes to improve their school nutrition environment. The prize for the winning schools was a visit from NY Jets players.
Murrell, 24, a graduate of Appalachian State University in North Carolina, has been with the Jets since 2007. The visit to Berkeley Township School was his first Eat Right, Move More event.
"I have talked to some of my teammates about visits they have done to Eat Right, Move More–winning schools, but there is nothing like experiencing it yourself," said Murrell. "Berkeley Township Elementary School students are eating well and getting lots of exercise and it is great to be here to celebrate this achievement with them."
This year's Eat Right, Move More program focused on school breakfast and how schools have made efforts to offer and promote healthy and interesting morning menu choices. Berkeley Township Elementary School, which houses 540 fifth- and sixth-grade students, has offered breakfast for two years. Students pick up their breakfast in the cafeteria and eat it in the classroom. School principal James Roselli said they are proud to be recognized by the Department of Agriculture and the Jets for encouraging the importance of starting the day with healthy food.
"Good nutrition is critical for every child's short- and long-term health, including both their physical and cognitive development," said Roselli. "Healthy eating habits learned during childhood are usually continued throughout life. As school is where young people spend most of their waking hours, it is important that they have every opportunity to access healthy food and learn in an environment that supports healthy eating."
Roselli said the school allows healthy snacks in class. There are no food vending machines in the school. The teachers model healthy eating and encourage their students to do the same. The after-school "Food and Nutrition Club" teaches students healthy eating habits. In addition, Physical Fitness Friday was created for students and teachers to walk for fun and fitness.
Four other schools from around the state were selected as winners in the Eat Right, Move More program: Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) in Wayne; Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park; Somerset School in North Plainfield; and Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville. PCTI was the grand prize winner and was visited by Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in December. The school also sent representatives to the December 14 Jets game at Giants Stadium who were honored on the field.
Programs funded by the New York Jets Foundation touch the lives of countless young men and women in the tri-state area. Over the past nine years, the Jets and their charitable foundation have raised or contributed more than $9 million to promote youth health, fitness and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities. From fighting childhood obesity through the Generation Jets: Be Lean & Green initiative to launching a football team in a urban high school, urging students to eat right and move more, and supporting the efforts of the Alliance for Lupus Research, the New York Jets invest in programs that make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to the Jets Foundation, which supports their own extensive youth initiatives, the Jets partner with numerous established charitable organizations and participate in causes sponsored by the NFL.
The Department of Agriculture's school nutrition policy is the most comprehensive in the nation and covers pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The policy limits fat and sugar content in foods offered in a la carte lines, snack bars and vending machines, school stores and as part of on-campus fundraisers.
More than 1,740 schools in New Jersey offer the school breakfast program. New Jersey is one of three states in the nation with state support for all breakfast meals served, not just for students who receive free or reduced-priced meals.
To help promote the school breakfast program, the Department of Agriculture developed a Website titled "Food for Thought — New Jersey School Breakfast Program. The site has information and resources for parents, teachers, and children to help them work together to ensure students eat a healthy breakfast each morning.
For more information about the Department of Agriculture's school nutrition programs, click here.