The Board's Role in Sustaining School Health

Sustainability is often the “devil in the details” that haunts many worthwhile efforts.
School wellness programs are not exempt. Many districts have launched a well-intentioned fitness or nutrition program only to see those efforts slowly fade away over time. In fact, sustainability may be the biggest hurdle school boards face in improving student and staff wellness.

One frequent problem is that school wellness programs can become too closely tied to a single “champion,” be it a board member, superintendent, principal, or teacher. Any program obviously needs an enthusiastic supporter to get it off the ground, but those that largely are due to one person’s efforts tend to vanish when that champion leaves the school or school district.

Another challenge is finding time and money to implement a proper wellness program. As any school board member knows, budgeting is a zero-sum game—any dollar put into one program must come at the expense of something else. In most districts, the list of worthwhile projects far outweighs the pool of available funds. Then there is the matter of finding time for health and physical education during an increasingly busy, stressful school day.

“School wellness has come a long way over the past few years,” says Jennifer Weber, national nutrition policy manager of the American Dietetic Association, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. “However, there appears to be a great disparity in the wellness policies among districts, both in content and in implementation.”

One reason for the disparity could be the value individual districts place on health and wellness. Is wellness in your district’s mission and vision? If not, then it should be. Do you have policies in place that guide your commitment to improving student health? If you don’t, you should consider them. Do your policies address funding wellness efforts, either through your budget or your district’s pursuit of grants and partnerships?

Are you doing what it takes to incorporate wellness into your school culture?

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