Guest Blog: Simple Steps Change School Wellness Culture

December 20, 2010

Today we're featuring a guest blog from Healthy Kids Challenge, a nonprofit organization that promotes health and works to reduce childhood obesity.This post highlights how small, simple changes can make a difference for student health.

By Tammy Simmons, Healthy Kids Challenge

The Healthy Kids Challenge School Challenge is excited to highlight Syracuse Elementary School in Syracuse, Kan., for their ongoing forward progress in school wellness practices and policies.  Over the past five years, the school district and local community, with support from our distance assistance program, have made strides in creating a healthier school environment:

  • An active school wellness committee implements healthy eating and physical activity events  
  • Administration sees the value of, and provides ongoing support for, healthy change
  • P.E. is maximized for movement 5 days a week and activity is integrated into classrooms
  • Teamwork develops and implements a district-wide snack policy
  • Combined actions for physical activity and healthy eating exist across the curriculum
  • Staff members healthy changes and participate in wellness programs
  • Parents and community engage in wellness actions through special events, parent-teacher conferences, and newsletters

The school district won student and parent support for the snack policy in an innovative way.  School staff developed snack surveys during a summer break, which were given to every student in K-6th grades the first week of school.  Then at “Back to School Night”, parents participated in a session on healthy eating, reviewed results of the students’ surveys and sampled healthy snacks.  At the end of the night, a plan was unveiled to students and parents on how to strengthen the school’s nutrition policies.  Through student and family input, the school district successfully built awareness, appeal, and ownership for the coming change. 

Taking survey results into consideration, the Board of Education adopted the following as part of the new policy:

  • “Special Lunch”, which used to be a soda and candy bar, was renamed “Snack and Chat” and features a healthy snack each quarter.
  •  Reading Goal rewards are no longer candy and soda but extra recess time or a new book.
  • Classroom snacks are allowable and chosen by the students, including popcorn, fruit, and pretzels.

Barbara Harris, At-Risk Coordinator for the school, says: “We truly are all learning more about how to be healthy.  We feel that promoting sound health practices, healthy eating and physical activity will create healthier children who will, in turn, be ready to learn.”

As Pearl S. Buck said, “Solution is possible where acceptance is ready.”  What solutions are working for your school?

HSC thanks the Healthy Kids Challenge for this great story about a school making strides towards a healthier learning environment!