SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Hy-Vee  employees are going back to school in more ways than one.
Along with Hy-Vee's involvement in the Healthy Schools Partnership, it also is launching a separate school-based health and wellness program this fall.
First- and second-graders in Sioux City Community Schools will receive classroom instruction on a variety of nutrition topics, including NuVal, the nutrition ranking system that rates all foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on nutrition. Hy-Vee and other food retailers and businesses use NuVal.
Peter Streit, manager of perishables at the Gordon Drive Hy-Vee in Sioux City, created the program after he and his family changed their eating habits with help from the NuVal system. Streit developed the curriculum with Hy-Vee registered dietitians Sarah Nelson and Lindsay Lannan.
“Hy-Vee gives us the autonomy to create programs that help our communities,” Streit told SN. “Hy-Vee supports anything health-related.”
The program will be executed in three, one-hour courses conducted in the beginning, middle and end of the 2010-2011 school year. Six store department heads at the Gordon Drive store have volunteered to go into schools and present the information to students. All work is done on a voluntary basis; no one gets paid.
Using supermarket employees as educators will make a strong impression on the children, Streit said.
“These are people the children see when they come to our stores,” he said. “They're a familiar face.”
Mary Jo Salem, director of elementary education for Sioux City Community Schools, said the partnership will benefit the community.
“We're pleased to have Hy-Vee's involvement in enhancing the physical well-being of students,” Salem said in a statement. “Providing students with information on the NuVal system and the importance of making healthy choices is a nice way to enrich our health curriculum at the elementary level.”
At present, only Hy-Vee Gordon Drive store department heads are involved in the initiative. But Hy-Vee plans to launch a chainwide training program so employees from other stores can get involved, thereby expanding the program to additional schools, according to Streit.