From our friends at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
A wellness policy acts as an umbrella under which all other wellness initiatives belong, such as school nutrition standards and physical education practices. Beginning in 2004, Congress required all schools participating in federal child nutrition programs to create wellness policies, and new guidelines are expected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the next few weeks.
When Alvord Unified School District in Riverside, California decided to update its district wellness policy, the wellness council turned to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Model Wellness Policy, which was released in 2015 as a template for schools to align with the forthcoming federal guidelines.
Getting everyone to agree on a wellness policy was no easy task for the district, which is comprised of 23 schools serving more than 19,000 students. “The Model Wellness Policy was very valuable in convincing our administration that we needed to strengthen our policy,” said Patti Suppe, physical education teacher for Loma Vista Middle School, who has been part of the wellness council since its inception 13 years ago.
School staff were most wary of removing unhealthy snacks from classroom celebrations and school fundraisers. “Most of the pushback came from staff that used food sales to raise money,” said Eric Holliday, Director of Nutrition Services. “This was an opportunity for us to provide resources for healthier fundraisers. There are many more ways to raise money such as a family night or a fun run.”
After initially rejecting language that would require all foods served at school to meet the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School standards, Patti and Eric shared the Alliance’s template with the committee. “We were able to back up our guidelines with the Model Wellness Policy language,” said Patti.
Once the new policy was approved, Patti and Eric got to work providing training and resources to school staff and parents. They met with the superintendent and school principals and gave a presentations at back to school nights and parent teacher association meetings about why the policy was changing and how it would benefit their students. Patti encourages others to, “Give everyone the facts and show the data that proves kids’ academics are going to improve if we are feeding them right and if they’re getting exercise.”
This year, Patti’s hard work on behalf of the district truly paid off: Loma Vista Middle School earned the highest distinction from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation – the National Healthy Schools Gold Award – in recognition of the school’s successful efforts to create a healthy environment for students and staff.
Take Action: Check out the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Wellness Policy Resources to learn how to make positive changes in your school district.