Let’s Stand Together for Healthy School Environments in Fayette County Public Schools

January 14, 2014

I can’t tell you how many parents have shared stories with me about  how commonly accepted school practices  undermine  the healthy habits they are trying to teach their kids.  Skittle and M & M worksheets, pizza and  ice cream parties for bringing in the most canned goods,, Oreos for turning in homework, sitting for hours on end and  having recess taken away for antsy behavior.

The Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition is on a mission to persuade the Fayette County Public School (FCPS) Board of Directors to strengthen the district wide school wellness policy.  School districts around the country are finding that strong wellness policies improve classroom management, enhance  student learning and reduce absenteeism, as well as  teach children healthy behaviors that will serve them for a lifetime.  Having a district-wide policy means that students experience a consistent healthy school environment K-12, making these practices normative in relatively short order.

The policy recommendations address six areas that have been shown to have the greatest impact : (1) the use of food as reward, (2) food for celebrations, (3) food marketing in schools, (4) recess, (5) physical activity and punishment, and  (6) PE and classroom teachers’ roles in promoting physical activity. I think almost anyone will  find that the polices we are promoting are reasonable.  We didn’t arrive at them lightly, rather we researched the latest policies promoted by school wellness experts and vetted the ideas with FCPS teachers and administrators before crafting the final language.

The Fayette County District Health Team has reviewed  these policy recommendations and will bring the amended policy statements to the Board for approval.  We hope that will happen in time to implement the new policy before the 2014-15  school year begins. The longer it takes for the school board to approve a stronger wellness policy, the more students will pay the price with their health and the longer it will take for schools to reap the benefits of a student body that is well-fed, fit and ready to learn.  It is especially important because there are vast health disparities among students in our district and this is makes it even more difficult to close the achievement gaps. Implementing the district wellness policy recommendations will help reduce some of those disparities.

Do school wellness policies make a difference?  Three years ago Chula Vista, California strengthened their school district’s wellness policy and now 3.2 percent fewer students are overweight or obese.  This   helps them avoid chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.  Improving school wellness can also aid the Kentucky budget battle for education since our state spends 2.3 billion dollar annually dealing with the cost of these chronic diseases.  Unfortunately  those costs continue to grow and are expected to almost triple by 2018.

It’s time for a change.  When I was in elementary school our principal had a paddle in her office and she wasn’t afraid to use it.  My high school had cigarette vending machine in the halls.  (I am not making this up.)  We look back  now and it’s hard to believe.  I predict we will feel the same  a few years down the road when we have set more reasonable guidelines for our children’s school  environments.

Here’s how you can help: Please call or write your school board representative and ask them to support these policy changes.  You don’t have to have a child in the district to make this call—all the kids in FCPS are “our kids”.  Also  pass this link of  fun and practical resource for teachers to help them make the transition to constructive  reward systems, instead of bribing kids with junk food.  http://tweenslex.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/constructive-rewards-pdf.pdf

 

Extreme Makeover: Afterschool Snack Shop Edition

Two middle schools in Lexington, Kentucky are revolutionizing the way students snack . Southern and Tates Creek Middle are now offering delicious, healthy snacks at their afterschool snack shops in place of the traditional junk food concession stand offerings. Instead of chips, candy, and soda, students can now purchase fresh fruit, smoothies, veggies, protein bars, and water to keep them satisfied and powered up for their after school sporting events and activities. The healthier snack options meet the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition’s Better Bites nutrition standards.

 

Many schools use afterschool snack shops as a fundraising mechanism for school clubs and sports teams.  While it is important for these clubs to make money to help offset  costs,, making money by exploiting students’ health doesn’t make sense.  .  Instead of selling inexpensively-priced junk food, Southern and Tates Creek Middle have taken the necessary steps to offer affordable, healthy snacks to their students to ensure that they are eating well and feeling good. Selling healthy food in afterschool snacks shops is a win-win for school clubs and students.

To learn more about how you can start a healthy snack shop or makeover an existing snack shop in your school, check out the Bringing Better Bites to Your School Snack Shop handbook, a Lexington Herald Leader article, and the KET Health 360 program, Champions of Children’s Health. If you have more specific questions about getting started, contact Jocelyn Cowen (jocelyn.cowen@uky.edu).

Southern Middle School Yum Yum Shop

Jocelyn and Lisa selling

Southern Middle School Yum Yum Shop

 

smoothies and fruit

titan-afterSchool07

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