Health

The benefits of including nutrition education during the school day are hard to ignore!

Benefits for Schools

Helping students stay healthy through eating healthy foods and being physically active can help schools achieve better overall:

  1. Test scores
  2. Grades
  3. Attendance rates
  4. Behavior patterns

Benefits for Parents

Kids spend a great deal of their time in school. A healthy school environment can:

  1. Provide opportunities to learn and practice healthy behaviors

Benefits for Kids

Eating healthier and staying active in school can help kids:

  1. Gain knowledge and skills to make healthy choices
  2. Feel better
  3. Do better in sports
  4. Concentrate
  5. Get better grades and test scores

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

If you are looking for assistance in choosing a flexible, easy-to-implement, comprehensive nutrition education program, contact Healthy Kids Challenge!

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The CDC Healthy Schools Guideline 8 states “Provide a school employee wellness program that includes healthy eating and physical activity services for all school staff members.

The benefits of employee wellness programs are fairly well known. They can improve staff productivity, decrease employee absenteeism, and decrease employee health care costs.

While most schools are getting out the message about healthful eating and physical activity connected to healthy bodies and minds, the size and scope of full-fledged wellness programs vary widely. A sustainable comprehensive program requires the support of a wellness coordinator and/or strong wellness committee. In addition, success depends on staff motivation and participation. These things happen with good planning over time, making the case for schools without programs to start small and build momentum for a strong foundation.

HKC’s January 25th WOWS Newsletter has great suggestions for getting started and implementing new ideas in an existing program. If you are in the building momentum phase, be sure take time to reach out to the community, local health professionals and businesses for support.

Set the Stage for Wellness

January 9, 2017

Cute Hispanic elementary school student holding tray of cafeteria food

Studies show that children eat approximately one-third of their daily food intake while at school.

When students have the option, they are more likely to purchase foods and beverages that are high in calories, fats, and/or sugar. On the school campus these foods are called competitive foods because they compete with school meals. These options are frequently found in places such as vending machines, school stores, à la carte lines, class parties, and as fundraisers.

Setting the stage requires wellness policies with guides to meet standards for healthier choices. For the policies to be successful they also need widespread acceptance. From the people who implement the policy to those who are impacted by it, success has the greatest potential when the following actions are taken:

  1. Involve everyone in the process, including the creation and implementation of the policies. If you don’t have a Student Advisory Group (SAG), it can be very helpful to create one. SAG can conduct surveys with peers to obtain constructive feedback.
  2. Instead of “reinventing the wheel,” learn from the lessons learned by others. See the January 11th issue of the WOWS Newsletter for helpful resources.
  3. Through marketing and nutrition education, create an interest in wellness. The Healthy Kids Challenge Explore MyPlate With School Nutrition Guidebook is an easy-to-use guide with tips and tools for school nutrition services managers and wellness teams! Action ideas are designed to increase participation through marketing and promotion and help meet the HealthierUS School Challenge. Content includes MyPlate, trivia, bulletin boards, food science experiments to link with curriculum standards, menu planning tips, and fun ideas for youth advisory councils. The guidebook is designed for programs serving students in grades K-8.

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In our WOWS Newsletter, we start the New Year with ideas for school and youth organizations to attain and sustain wellness resolutions. Starting with the January 4th issue and throughout the month of January, check out and share all these ideas with your colleagues.

In addition, as described below, the Centers for Disease Control has recently released a handy wellness assessment and planning tool for healthy schools. Try it out!

CDC’s New Virtual Healthy School!
This interactive tool shows you how components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model can be integrated into your school. Virtual classrooms are available to “visit” in grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8. You can even visit the cafeteria, school nurse and principal to see how they are promoting a healthy school environment.

The first approach for developing successful, sustainable wellness policies is to involve people in the process…the general public and school community (parents, students, teachers, school nutrition services, physical educators, school board, school administration and school health professionals.

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There are many people volunteering much of their time to help make a healthy difference for kids. I know of teachers who give their own time to organize kids’ after school walking and running groups or spend extra minutes a week working a healthy eating lesson into the time that is available or finding ways to integrate it into their curriculum. Too often these great efforts go unrecognized. Giving recognition motivates these well doers and others to take similar actions.

Seek opportunities such as staff meetings to recognize wellness related actions! It will help build the “culture of wellness” that makes schools a healthy place. A place that helps kids reach their best well-being and academic potential.

When PEP Grant coordinators in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) noticed that students were throwing away untouchedworkshop-Wisconsin baked potatoes served at lunch, they responded by producing lighthearted YouTube videos about a number of different fruits and veggies.

During our 2 days of Balance My Day Training for 6th – 8th grade teachers in the MPS, we got to be entertained by several of these videos which feature MPS students demonstrating preparation tips and giving geography and history facts about a fruit or vegetable. The short videos were designed for teachers to play in order to encourage students to eat healthier; they are a terrific addition to the District’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Toolbox.

One teacher commented that if students aren’t taught about healthy eating, all they know to do is pick up chips from the local convenience store. We discussed techniques to encourage Smart Snacking in order to help address his concerns. Teachers also learned about ways to work with their building’s Coordinated School Health Teams in order to effect policy and procedure changes regarding nutrition education and physical activity promotion.

I was thrilled to hear a number of teachers who planned to go back to their schools ready to help their health and wellness teams reach out to students and families in creative ways such as food tastings at parent nights, Brain Breaks in classrooms – even those with limited space for movement- and literacy activities using books their students are enjoying to help promote more minutes of motion and healthy food choices. Because of the thorough actions the PEP Grant Team at Milwaukee Public Schools continues to take, students there are truly learning how to “Balance My Day.”

“Well prepared, great, inexpensive activities to use at our schools. Thank you for letting us discuss schools situations, roadblocks, etc.” -Liz Dimick, Barton/081

“The workshop was really enlightening. It gave me ideas on how to teach my nutrition unit this year.”-Grace Scott, Dr. King Elementary

Workshop-Coal TownshipPAEarly into the BMD (Balance My Day ) training in Coal Township, PA, a teacher acknowledged that adding nutrition education to the already long list of topics to be addressed in the classroom is overwhelming. This is a common concern! I was happy that this brave teacher said out loud what others at the training, and many before, were also thinking.

We addressed this concern by assuring participants that BMD nutrition education is totally flexible and can fit any teacher’s needs. It integrates with core curriculum, and can be used as a 1-minute bain break all the way to a 40-minute cooking skills lesson. Throughout the day we focused on Hear, See and Do Activities, which incorporate healthy eating and moving more while learning math, science, social studies and literacy.

  • Some of the teachers decided to use a book exhibit or book fair to promote healthy lifestyle choices;
  • several others started planning for cooking in the classroom with BMD Curriculum recipes.
  • One teacher enjoyed the food trivia questions in the BMD Book and is planning to include these as part of her morning routine;
  • another realized that by encouraging her students to move from their classroom carpet back to their seats using different locomotive skills such as sliding or tiptoeing, she is promoting fun physical movement.
  • Brain Breaks will be used as a time to get students up and moving and learning about healthy food choices in several classrooms.

By the end of the training, I was impressed to see that in spite of their reservations about busy schedules, Coal Township teachers had designed a number of easy-to-implement nutrition education techniques and classroom physical activities. The students at Coal Township have a lot to look forward to!

“Very informative and lots of activities for school-aged children. Great workshop to participate [in]. I’d recommend this HKC-SPARK workshop to others.”  – Lisa Gass, Shamokin Area

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