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AUGUST 2014 READER PANEL SURVEY RESULTS
Battling Childhood Obesity
When asked whether their district offered healthy eating and exercise programs for kids at school, 95 percent of responding Reader Panel members said "yes," while 5 percent answered "no."
Here is a sample of your additional comments about your experiences helping children learn to eat healthy food and exercise:
Is your district district offering healthy eating and exercise programs for kids at school?
Nixa Public Schools' SHAC (School Health Advisory Council) has been in place for 10 years with representatives from school, area businesses, health clinics, and parents. New policy & guidelines have been adopted for meals and snacks brought to school. We have many wellness challenges within our 11 buildings with staff and students. Also an eNewsletter is published with tips, recipes and reports. SHAC has helped get salad bar options for our elementary buildings and host Fear Factor Fridays for students to tried unusual fruits and vegetables and were recently surprised when one building ran out of Brussels Sprouts!! SHAC hosts evening wellness programs on healthy after school snacks that kids can make and now we have a volunteer chef that has helped our food service realize the importance of herbs, spices, and presentation for more healthy and attractive lunches. The chef has a Student Chefs in Training program and has had Iron Chef contests for the student groups. Many of our buildings have Student Advisory Groups that meets with Food Service about school lunches. The council also has hosted a 5K Family Walk/Run for the past 7 years with over 300 people showing up annually. All buildings have Walking Trails and our students chart on a U.S. map how far they walk in a school year and push pin the states they have visited. One of our buildings has partnered with an area hospital on a recent semester of monitoring students health, while encouraging daily exercise in fun ways: Heart Healthy Kids! sponsored by Cox Health Systems. Our district is very active in promoting health and wellness in a positive light.
Peggy L Taylor, School Board Member, Missouri
The district won a grant several years ago that led to overhauling the physical education program, including adding fitness-related equipment and implementing a fitness measurement system used in physical education classes. The district's food service program undertook a significant effort to improve the taste and visual attractiveness of healthier foods, engage students in attempting healthy foods unfamiliar to them, and has won awards for the program’s quality and success. Elementary schools are currently piloting a fitness motivation program called "Gear Up & Go" sponsored by a broad coalition of community agencies aimed at reducing child obesity and establishing better fitness practices and attitudes in fifth grade. The program uses a new accelerometer device ("Squord") that permits students across classrooms, across schools, and across school districts to compete at earning movement points ("Squoins"). Students have been donating the Squoins to help children impoverished as a result of the Oso, Washington mudslide, integrating charitable motivation in addition to health and competitive motivations. This effort is designed to leverage existing fitness training and habits and decrease time devoted to sedentary pursuits, ultimately aimed at increased long-term health for students as adults. All of this responds to a district strategic target focused on improved student healthy behaviors.
Dr. Gary Cohn, Superintendent, Washington
In addition to physical education classes in all elementary schools, one of our four elementary schools implemented the BOKS (www.bokskids.org) initiative this past semester. Students come at least two days a week before the start of school for a 30 minute exercise period led by teachers. The junior high has a new weight room which is open for student use. Systemwide we have revamped our vending machine options and can easily meet the new federal nutrition standards.
Terry Reed, School Board Member, Indiana
Improving student (and staff) health and wellness is important to Greendale Schools, Greendale, Wisconsin. Our district has a written "Student Wellness Policy" that acknowledges each student's physical, social, and emotional wellness needs. The policy encourages healthy snacks and non-food treats in classrooms. Teachers are challenged to plan movement breaks during classroom time to improve student focus. "Shaking out the cobwebs" is good for everyone's concentration! To get kids moving and keep them active, we have implemented free programming for students at our various levels. At the middle school, Fitness Fridays include 10 minute aerobic and weight training workouts. Free kids yoga programs are offered at the elementary and middle school. After school programs, including basketball skills camps are held at the elementary buildings. Over the past three year, we have seen attendance in these programs increase substantially. New programs are being proposed and considered.
Kitty Goyette, Communications Director, Wisconsin
Reducing childhood obesity and improving children’s health and wellness is a key factor in helping children learn. In this age of test scores and proficiency we sometimes forget that other factors such as eating healthy and exercise can move us towards our goals at a much quicker rate. Sometimes the school district needs to be informed of this. Before the start of last year our district was going to reduce physical education—including recess—in order to have more seat time for our students in all of our schools including the elementary buildings. Through resistance and persuasion by the community we were able to make them realize the importance of exercise and good nutrition. We have since cranked the dial up and forward, our district received a Physical Education Program (PEP) grant this has done some amazing things in the lives of our students. We were able to purchase pedometers for every student in our district. This has enabled us to see how much walking/movement students did in a 24 hour period over the course of seven days. We did this several times throughout the school year. In conjunction, the nurses in our schools compiled a Body Mass Index on each student, and the Physical Education teachers were able to educate our students on this important topic. This has brought the importance of physical activity forward in the minds of the community and school district alike. We also have gone with a multi-grain food program and a fresh fruit and vegetable program for our meals and snacks in the schools. We also added more physical education time in each building. All of the data is currently being compiled from these efforts. However, if you speak with the teachers in the classrooms it appears that there is a lot of learning going on and movement.
John Johnson, School Board Member, Iowa
Our school district has gone to scratch cooking in our schools. We have been awarded a national awards from the HUD secretary for our partnership with Empire Health Organization to reduce childhood obesity. The results were very dramatic. We have started a farm to table program where we feature a locally grown produce. We teach where the produce came from, and feature the produce at our schools. The students have such fun learning about the farm where the produce is grown and then making posters and learning about how to prepare the produce then enjoying it. It has been a very successful program, and other districts are coming to us to learn about this program.
Suzanne Dolle, School Board Member, Washington
Our seven schools have three gardens. Many kids also receive fresh produce snacks during the day. And more are having recess now than a few years ago. Our lunches still aren't very healthy, though, which is a huge negative.
Dr. Patricia Blochowiak, School Board Member, Ohio
Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Johneka Simmons, Principal, has developed an impressive student health program this year. Almost 80% of the 355 K-6 students receive subsidized lunches, and Ms. Simmons has developed remarkable parental and community support. To start her health program, she and the school nurse, Jennifer Gardiner, recruited a School Wellness Advisory Committee of parents and teachers, and medical professionals including nurses, optometrists, audiologists, dentists, family medicine physicians and pediatricians volunteer time and services. She developed a Student Wellness Assessment form and asked parents to opt-in to student assessment at the beginning of the year and the end. Students and parents have participated wholeheartedly. She is tracking data to find correlations between health and student achievement.
Ginny Moe, School Board Member, South Carolina
I am a health care professional/education researcher who, though THE EQUIPOISE PROJECT, provides presentations, lectures and workshops, and information that strengthens teacher skill sets in assessing students’ performance precipitating from specific health issues. Recently I hosted an “Education and Health Summit”, see www.equipoiseproject.org, which focused on the impact of health care disparities on student performance. As a board member of The American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry, see www.aapmd.org, the focus is the development of the anatomical airway and the precipitating neurological, particularly brain development, and biological impact on student performance. Simply stated, a healthy child will develop the neurological and biological systems that are the core of student performance in the formal education environment. Health care disparities have not been an integral part of the early assessment process and is now part of the new frontier for education progress.
Dr. Philip Cooper, professional development lecturer, Georgia
This year, for the first time, high school students were offered salads as an alternative to less healthy lunches. However, no real efforts have been made to implement comprehensive health and wellness education throughout our K-12 (preschool to adult ed) district. Could this be because the vast majority of adults working in the district are overweight? If a majority of board members, administrators, and teaching staff is overweight or obese, what kind of honest conversations would have to take place before effective classroom learning could happen? To talk openly about obesity would embarrass many overweight adults—does embarrassment prevent us from providing students the education they need to avoid the same unhealthy life styles that we have adopted?
Gail Monohon, School Board Member, California
We have partnered with GenHKids (www.genhkids.org) to create an entirely different healthy menu K-8. GenH is also helping our district institute "brain breaks" to increase activity during the day.
Lisa Weitzel, School Board Member, Illinois
The new standards, while certainly well-intentioned, are in places unnecessarily arbitrary. This is going to make it increasingly challenging for our food service budget to break even.
David Hutchinson, School Board Member, Pennsylvania
Our district has a fantastic farm-to-school program. Monthly, the farmers visit an elementary school to allow students to sample local produce in a variety of ways. For example, in October pumpkins were the featured local fruit. Students were able to sample pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, and roasted pumpkin seeds. In addition, the farmer brought a pumpkin plant and several different varieties of pumpkins. Students visit the tasting booth during their lunch period. There is time for sampling and questions. Students interacting with the farmers and the cafeteria staff at lunch time has increased our produce consumption at lunch time. It has also been an excellent opportunity for school staff and cafeteria staff to learn about farming and fresh local produce.
School Nutrition Director, Virginia