Ten Reasons to Celebrate: Reflecting on a Great Year at HSC
January 02, 2014 | Written By: Healthy Schools Campaign
Ten reasons that 2013 was a great year for HSC!
by Rochelle Davis, HSC President + CEO
2013 was an incredibly exciting year here at HSC! As the new year begins and we embark on ambitious new goals, I find it encouraging to reflect on the milestones we reached and the work we continued in the past year.
At HSC, we think of our approach as Chicago-based and nationally-minded. As we work for change on a national level, we remain grounded in a special focus on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the health and wellness issues affecting the district’s primarily low-income minority students. We work with parents, teachers, students and nurses and are closely involved in advocating for health-promoting district-level policy.
Today, I’m happy to highlight a few of these achievements and the many dedicated advocates who make this work possible. So without delay, here are ten of HSC’s most exciting highlights of the past year, in Chicago and across the nation:
We successfully concluded Go for the Gold, our three-year campaign with Chicago Public Schools to promote healthy eating and physical activity in the city’s schools in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to end childhood obesity. As a result of the campaign, more than 40 percent of CPS elementary schools have made positive changes school food, nutrition education, physical activity and physical education. That means more than 90,000 students are learning in healthier environments this year !
HSC was honored as a finalist in the Chicago Innovation Awards for our successful Go for the Gold campaign with CPS. We were thrilled to receive this recognition for our unique approach. You can read more about the honor here.
This work wouldn’t be possible without the incredible on-the-ground work and strong voices of mothers and fathers in Parents United for Healthy Schools. Parents who participate in this coalition have gone on to form more than 50 wellness teams in Chicago schools. This year’s parent leadership institute brought together 50 parent leaders to share lessons and develop strategies for continuing to make change.
Teachers across Chicago are making big changes and helping to create a culture of wellness in their schools. HSC equips teachers for this effort through our innovative Fit to Learn teacher professional development program. I was thrilled this year to congratulate the remarkable teachers in the most recent Fit to Learn cadre. Fifty teachers from 25 different schools took part in the program over the last year, joining 125 alums who continue to share their ideas and receive ongoing support from HSC.
I remain inspired by the creative and effective ways that principals are working to make wellness a regular part of the school day. Our Fit to Learn principal professional development program, which we launched this year with 35 principals, highlights these strategies and equips principals with the data and the resources to make change. One of the most valuable parts of this program has been the opportunity for innovative principals to learn from each other about supporting wellness in schools.
We also saw major changes in school food here in Chicago. HSC co-led an extensive community engagement process in which two key advisory groups, one of citywide stakeholders and one of parents, provided important input to the CPS school food program. The resulting ten pathways to excellence in school food have provided valuable guidance on the complete school food experience , from how food is grown to the place where it’s consumed.
After identifying these pathways, CPS awarded a new contract for food service management that includes a number of the health-focused provisions the groups recommended. These changes have the potential to significantly improve the school meal program. This is the largest food service management contract in North America. Learn more here.
As school districts move to serve healthier school meals, we need to make sure we continue to engage students in the process so they will want to eat this healthier food. HSC engages students in creating healthy school meals that appeal to their peers through the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. A few months ago, we launched a new season of Cooking up Change in Chicago . I can’t wait to see what else the students create this year!
On the national stage, we reached a major milestone in 2013 when we released our Health in Mind report with the Trust for America’s Health. The report, which is filled with case studies of innovative leaders making change in their own communities across the country, calls for practical changes at the federal level to close the achievement gap by addressing school health.
Some of my favorite moments of 2013 were with the enthusiastic and inspiring young chefs who came from across the country to be part of the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. These high school students create healthy, great-tasting school meals that appeal to their peers — all with limited ingredients and a tight budget. In the past year, 325 students participated in 10 local contests across the U.S., culminating in the national finals in Washington, D.C. Cooking up Change reached more than 900,000 people via social media last year! The winning meals were served to Congress and our elected leaders had the chance to hear the voices of these incredible students speaking up for fresh, healthy school food .
I’m looking forward to working with parents, students, teachers, principals, school nurses and many others to build on these accomplishments in the year ahead. Happy new year!