By Rochelle Davis, President + CEO
Healthy Schools Campaign’s mission is to advocate for policy that incorporates health and wellness into every aspect of the school experience and makes schools healthier places for students to learn. For the last eight years, we have been fortunate to have a First Lady leading the charge to transform the school food and fitness environment. With the transition to the Trump Administration, this work is as important as ever. The new Administration will likely create challenges for us as we strive to address many issues that are central to our mission of making schools healthier places for all students. We need to come together to make sure that the gains we have made are sustained and that our federal, state and local governments continue to support schools so that students are healthy and ready to learn.
We reached important milestones with our programs, made advances in other areas and initiated some new efforts.
Launching the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative
States and school districts across the country are eager to take advantage of new opportunities for expanding access to and resources for school health services, including the reversal of the free care policy, but are looking for support and guidance on how to do it. In order to help them take full advantage of these opportunities, the Department of Education (ED), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), launched the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative with 10 states. Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health are playing key roles in supporting this learning collaborative, which now includes 13 states. And we’ve learned so much already! In fact, the Collaborative has been so well-received, additional states have asked to participate.
Bringing Student Voices Front and Center with Cooking up Change
In June, teams from 10 cities across the country met at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., to cook their winning school meals as part of the Cooking up Change national finals, where the team from Orange County took first place with their menu of Moroccan Stuffed Zucchini, Moroccan Salad and Spiced Pear Cups. But Cooking up Change is about much more than crowning a national champion; it’s about elevating student voices in the national conversation about school food. In addition to the cooking competition, these student chefs took their message to Congress. At a Senate tasting event, more than 168 attendees—including staff members from more than 20 Senate offices—were able to taste the students’ meals and talk to them about their experiences creating healthy school meals. Teams also had individual meetings with their senators, representatives and congressional staff members to share their inspirational messages and speak about the importance of healthy school food.
Partnering with ISSA to Reach School Facility Managers
We were thrilled to announce a five-year partnership with ISSA to promote green cleaning to the education sector. Providing students and staff with the opportunity to learn and work in a school setting that is healthy and safe is important. How schools are built and maintained contribute to a healthy learning environment. How a school approaches cleaning says a lot about how how they value students and staff, the communities they are located in, the planet and their sense of connectedness to the broader good and future generations. That is why HSC is working to build a strong network of school facility directors dedicated to changing the ways schools are cleaned. This year, our partnership with ISSA had two main components: the Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute and the Green Clean Schools Forum at ISSA/INTERCLEAN. At the Leadership Institute, we hosted more than 80 green cleaning leaders at a two-day event in Ellicott City, Md., including school facility operators from more than 20 schools across the country. At the Forum, we welcomed 200 school facility directors, green cleaning experts, leading manufacturers and representatives from non-profits and NGOs for educational sessions and networking, with access to all of the offerings at ISSA/INTERCLEAN, including the renowned trade show floor.
Partnering with the Department of Education on Every Student, Every Day
The U.S. Department of Education officially launched Every Student, Every Day in October 2015, but 2016 saw many of the initiative’s components come to fruition. Healthy Schools Campaign has been playing an active role in supporting this initiative and efforts to address chronic absenteeism. Our work with the National Collaborative on Education and Health, the group we co-convene with Trust for America’s Health, helped catalyze the launch of the initiative. One of those components was the Every Student, Every Day National Conference. Healthy Schools Campaign had the opportunity to attend the conference as part of the Illinois State Team, all of whom were members of the Illinois Attendance Commission, a new commission charged with studying the issue of chronic absenteeism in Illinois and making recommendations for strategies to prevent chronic absenteeism. We were also on the planning team for the conference, and we debuted our chronic absenteeism and school health toolkit during the conference.
As we enter into 2017, the political landscape is new and uncertain. The campaign that just ended left many of us—low-income people of color, immigrants, the undocumented, women and girls, religious minorities, individuals with disabilities and the LGBTQ communities—feeling vulnerable. Healthy Schools Campaign believes in and stands for equity. We will speak up and stand firm to support the values of equity and opportunity that have defined our work for the past decade.