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April 13, 2008

More than anything, physical education teacher Cathy Walsh of Methuen wants to instill a love of exercise in her students. For months, she has been leading by example while training for the 112th Boston Marathon on April 21.

Walsh, who works at St. Monica's School in Methuen, said she was inspired to begin running after cheering on her brother-in-law at a road race in Andover last spring. Her first competition was a 5K last October, followed by a half marathon in November and a 21-mile road race from Hopkinton to the top of Heartbreak Hill a few weeks ago.

Walsh is now averaging 35 miles a week with the Hunger Strikers team, which is participating in this year's Boston Marathon to benefit the Lazarus House in Lawrence. The 28 runners expect to raise $100,000 to restock and support the organization's food pantry, which helps more than 300 individuals and families a week.

Walsh said she has received "tremendous" support from students and faculty members at her school as well as the Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, where her sister, Rose Redman, is principal. Both schools recently held "dress down" days during which students could donate $1 for the privilege of wearing their own clothes rather than the school uniform. In all, Walsh said she has raised more than $4,000 from family, friends, colleagues, and the schools.

Beyond challenging herself to run her first Boston Marathon, Walsh said, she wants her students to know they can also achieve their goals. "I always watched the Boston Marathon on TV with my family," said Walsh, whose brother-in-law and cousins have run in past years. "I'm so excited this year to be part of it."

AS YOU LIKE IT: With a background in restaurants, catering, and corporate dining centers, chef Paul Correnty of Pepperell said he approaches his job as food service director for the Harvard public schools with two key elements in mind: food quality and customer service.

In return, students have endorsed the "old-fashioned, made-from-scratch cooking" offered throughout Correnty's 10-year tenure. During that time, school lunch sales have increased from $131,000 to $565,000 in the 1,300-student school system. The program, he said, is self-supporting.

According to Correnty, dwindling government subsidies require school lunch programs to operate as a business. That requires offering locally grown produce and healthy foods that students want to eat, including such Bromfield School staples as baked barbecued chicken, maple-glazed salmon with panko crumbs, and leek and potato soup that is so good it outsells chicken noodle.

Pizza and made-to-order sandwiches and wraps are offered each day. Every lunch is served with milk and all-you-can-eat soup and side dishes such as pasta salad, brown rice, and steamed broccoli florets. Prices range from $1 for soup a la carte to $3.75 for a specialty sandwich such as the Big Rib-B-Q on a Fantini roll.

"I was raised in France, where it's understood that food is supposed to make you happy in addition to keeping you healthy," said Correnty, who published the "Art of Cidermaking" in 1994 and cofounded Cider Day, now in its 14th year in Franklin County. "We help kids achieve that balance."

Correnty will discuss "How and What to Eat: Kids and Schools" from 7 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Lunenburg Public Library. The event is free.

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