school girl carrying her lunch

Students play a unique and valuable role in advocating for healthier school environments. They can and should be encouraged to participate in the Wellness Council to:

  • Bring a different perspective to situations
  • Learn by participating
  • Model to peers
  • With guidance and training, help educate peers

Peer-to-peer influence is a growing area of research

There are many examples of peer influences on the behavior of children from preschool age through adolescence; both bad and good habits can be influenced. A recent study suggests that just viewing a DVD on which peers are eating a vegetable could positively influence acceptance of that vegetable. Younger students have a natural tendency to look up to slightly older youth. For that reason, they view them as a role model and someone worth listening to.

With guidance and training, peer-to-peer education and modeling can be very instrumental in improving the health habits of their younger peers. In addition, there are added benefits for the student mentors as they can improve their own confidence, leadership skills, nutrition and physical fitness knowledge, attitudes and habits.


Drinking fountain

The availability of water in schools is just one example of the multitude of reasons Wellness Councils are key to resolving barriers and creating solutions for healthy changes.

Increasing the availability of water in schools does indeed come with its own challenges. School food service departments must operate as nonprofits, yet they need to make enough money to be self-sufficient. While water is required, it is not considered to be a part of the reimbursable meal. This means there is no separate funding for equipment like cups and pitchers or water dispensers. Wellness Councils can help by taking the following steps:

  • Identify and take action for school needs (such as the availability of water) and opportunities.
  • Develop community partnerships, collaboration and fundraising for support.
  • Keep communication open with students, parents, and the community as to the needs and progress.
  • Develop and support campaigns to promote wellness opportunities or work with local organizations on a community-wide promotion campaign.

“The world will not change until we do.” — Jim Wallis


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!


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.


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.

pear for you

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.

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