By Rochelle Davis, President + CEO, Healthy Schools Campaign
Our annual Change for Good Luncheon is an opportunity to not only celebrate the progress that has been made in ensuring all students have access to healthy school environments, but also to rededicate Healthy Schools Campaign to a bigger and broader vision for healthy students, healthy schools and a healthy community.
When we started working to improve school food more than a decade ago, most people viewed bad school food as one of the trials and tribulations of childhood, not—as we have come to understand it today—a serious issue of health and equity. At the time, the USDA had standards for the school meal program that did not meet the dietary guidelines for the general public. Now, the national school meal standards are based on sound nutrition science. Locally, Chicago Public Schools has made great strides in creating a robust farm to school program and eliminating pre-plated frozen meals.
The change in the fitness environment has also been as dramatic. When we started working, only 6 percent of CPS elementary schools had daily recess, most elementary students had PE once a week and high school students had only three semesters of PE during their entire high school careers. Now, all CPS elementary schools are required to have daily recess and PE and more high school students are enrolled in daily PE than ever before.
We have just completed a three-year review of CPS’ wellness policy. We found that CPS’ policy is stronger and more comprehensive than most school districts around the country. In the first three years of implementation, we found that 43 percent of schools have adopted most provisions of the policy. While the progress has been tremendous, it has not been equal. Our analysis of implementation of the wellness policy highlights the fact that schools that serve African-American students, high schools and charter and contract schools have not had the level of success that other schools have.
While great progress has been made, there is still a lot to be done. We know that the road ahead of us is challenging. Addressing the inequities that seem intractable in our city and country is not easy. The work we do with schools and communities to support young people is needed now, more than ever.
Please join us at the Change for Good Luncheon as we share our vision to make schools healthier places where all children can learn and thrive. Be part of the movement for healthy students, healthy schools, a healthy Chicago and a healthy nation. Learn more about the Change for Good Luncheon and buy your tickets to attend this special event.