The Impact of Go for the Gold: 90,000 Students (and Counting)

August 28, 2013

As a new school year begins, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students return to schools that are even healthier than before. Kids are up and running, thanks to more-frequent physical education classes. Recess, too, is on the docket, and more classrooms are incorporating physical activity into traditional lessons. Plus, instead of relying on sugary snack sales to raise money, more schools now sell smoothies and host fun runs.

As a new school year begins, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students return to schools that are even healthier than before. Kids are up and running, thanks to more-frequent physical education classes. Recess, too, is on the docket, and more classrooms are incorporating physical activity into traditional lessons. Plus, instead of relying on sugary snack sales to raise money, more schools now sell smoothies and host fun runs.

We at HSC are thrilled to have helped drive many of these changes through our work on Go for the Gold, Chicago's response to First Lady Michelle Obama's call to end childhood obesity. Go for the Gold sparked new partnerships, projects and enthusiasm amongst the many parents, teachers and community organizations who are deeply invested in young people's health and wellness.

Because of this unified effort, Chicago not only met but exceeded its original goals. HSC initially planned to help 100 CPS schools meet the Go for the Gold challenge. By the end of the initiative in June of 2013, 119 schools had succeeded and more than 97 additional schools had taken steps in a healthier direction.

The numbers add up to a broad impact across Chicago's many neighborhoods. During the initiative's three years, from 2010-13, more than 40 percent of CPS elementary schools made positive changes as they worked to meet Go for the Gold's high standards for school food, fitness and more. Overall, the initiative brought healthy changes to more than 90,000 CPS students.

But the story can't stop there. Nearly half of CPS students remain overweight or obese, and these students are more susceptible to serious health conditions such as asthma, sleep apnea and Type II Diabetes. Now that Go for the Gold has come to a successful close, we're taking ongoing steps for healthy schools in Chicago. HSC is:

  • Collaborating with dedicated parent leaders, providing tools and support as they advocate for health in their children's schools, through Parents United for Healthy Schools.
  • Encouraging nutrition education and builds a network of likeminded teachers through Fit to Learn.
  • Empowering students to play a role in the conversation about school food through the dynamic Cooking up Change contest.
  • Creating sustainable outdoor play spaces through Space to Grow.

HSC is also in the process of advocating for healthy policy changes district-wide, which would impact all of CPS’s 600+ schools.

Meanwhile, CPS continues to build on Go for the Gold’s success. This summer, the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness launched LearnWELL [pdf], an initiative to support schools in aligning with the Chicago Public Schools wellness policies. The policies clearly link academic performance with health, and they promote healthier school environments for all.

Have you noticed an exciting healthy change at your school? Share your story of progress with us!