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Bemidji elementary schools honored

BEMIDJI – Local elementary schools are the first in the state to be deemed Gold Award recipients through a national program aiming to foster healthier school environments through the promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

Six elementary schools – Central, Horace May, J.W. Smith, Lincoln, Northern and Solway – were honored Monday night as they received the Gold Award of Distinction through the HealthierUS School Challenge.

“This is the highest honor you can achieve in this national program,” said Kara Mitterholzer, team nutrition coordinator through the Minnesota Department of Education.

Mitterholzer awarded plaques to each of the award-winning elementary schools, including Paul Bunyan Elementary, which obtained the Silver Award, during the Bemidji school board meeting. Each Gold recipient also received $2,000.

She also praised Marlene Webb, the district’s food service coordinator, for her work.

“There have been many times that myself and others in our section have called upon Marlene Webb to basically work with other districts in helping them come to the level that you guys are at,” Mitterholzer said.

Superintendent Jim Hess said he often asks Webb to bake a cake for special recognition ceremonies.

“I probably should have been baking the cake for you,” he quipped. “This is pretty special.”

With the food-service staff from each school represented in the audience, Webb commended their work.

“They come each and every day ready to prepare the best food with a lot of energy and a whole lot of humor,” she said. “They have a passion to be there.”

School board chairman John Pugleasa agreed, saying food-service staff does a great job of building relationships while also providing nutritious foods to students.

“I appreciate that as a parent, and I hope our community appreciates what is done as well,” he said. “You guys are awesome.”