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Turning Policy into Practice: How We Became America's Healthiest Schools

By Deirdre Moyer, Student Wellness Coordinator, Rockingham County Schools, NC

Every day, more than 12,000 students in Rockingham County arrive at school ready to learn. Across the district, our staff is committed to creating the best possible learning environments for them to thrive—that includes serving nutritious meals that fuel their bodies and minds, and providing opportunities for them to stay active throughout the day. 


Five of our schools—Bethany, Central, Draper, and Dillard Elementary and Rockingham County Middle School—are setting an exceptional example of health not just in Rockingham County, but across the nation, as they were recently named to the 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

These schools were selected based on a rigorous set of criteria established by the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program that includes meeting or exceeding federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks; offering breakfast daily; providing students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week; and—my favorite—implementing a district wellness policy and updating progress annually.

Through our district wellness policy, we’re sending a strong message to our community that creating a healthy school environment is essential to helping our students reach their full academic potential.

Each of our recognized schools leveraged our wellness policy to achieve national recognition as America’s Healthiest Schools. You can do it, too! Here are a few tips:

  • Get the Entire Community Involved. At Rockingham County Middle School, students, staff, parents and community members participated in the “Band on the Run” 5K race—a joint effort with the schools’ band program. Participants trained together after school in the weeks leading up the race, showing that when it comes to staying active, there is true strength in numbers.
  • Make Health Part of the Routine. Students at Central Elementary know exactly what to expect when they head outside for recess: to walk! The school has implemented a daily routine whereby students spend the first part of recess walking 1/3 of a mile, ensuring that students start this valuable playtime on the right foot, each and every day.
  • Use Celebrations to Reinforce Healthy Habits. It’s important that students receive a consistent message around health, even when it comes to celebrations. Bethany Elementary puts this into practice by encouraging parents and teachers to provide healthy snacks for special occasions.

The impact of our wellness policy and commitment to health is evident across the district. Students are more alert in class. Behavioral issues have decreased. Attendance has gone up. And most of all, students are building healthy habits that will last a lifetime. 

“The Healthy Schools Program provided our school with an abundant amount of resources to help us achieve our wellness goals,” said John Robertson, physical education teacher at Central Elementary. “Our students have gained an understanding of the importance of healthy eating habits and how it impacts their life.”

Ready to translate your wellness policy success into becoming one of America’s Healthiest Schools? Enroll or join your school’s team in the Healthy Schools Program to get started!