After lunch – and you really don’t want to miss lunch at an event designed and managed by four professional chefs – attendees of the 2014 School Wellness Summit selected discussion tables to learn more from each other about specific areas of campus health and wellness. Here is a brief synopsis of the discussion table topics and the key recommendations:
1. Wellness policy
- Recommended summarizing the sometimes lengthy Wellness Policies into a one-page document for distribution to staff and parents .
- Recommended selection of enthusiastic champions from each school to serve on the District Wellness Committee and actively promote the policy on each campus.
2. Wellness Committee
- Reminded the group to ensure each Wellness Policy includes Whole Child elements – social-emotional, cognitive, nutrition, and activity.
- Recommended more community initiative to educate parents early, including specific dos and don’ts for foods on campus, distribution of a one-page synopsis of the Wellness Policy, and a stronger preschool-to-elementary school continuum of healthy habits. (Shameless plug: the Orfalea Foundation’s Preschool Food & Healthy Habits Initiative is currently working with the School Food Initiative on educational materials for parents of children entering elementary school.)
3. Recess Before Lunch
- Recommended taking advantage of California opportunities for outdoor eating, noting that shade structure grants are available from American Academy of Dermatology.
- Recommended ongoing communication to stakeholders about the WHY behind this change, while acknowledging that it can be difficult to communicate the benefits of Recess Before Lunch because it seems like a “no-brainer” to those who have tried it.
4. Breakfast In the Classroom/Nutrition Breaks
- Recommended that schools offer open, transparent communication to parents, recognizing a broad range of sensitivities in the community; for example, some parents are offended by the perceived implication that they are not feeding their kids a proper breakfast.
- In resistant schools, the group recommended launching a breakfast program in a single classroom, with a champion teacher, then documenting and communicating results to the campus community. (Editor’s note: School Food Initiative Director Kathleen de Chadenèdes disagrees, as we have seen many successes with full school implementation)
5. Community Partnerships/Alliances
- Recommended raising awareness of different resources available to North and South County, such as Veggie Rescue or Foodbank’s Backyard Bounty program.
- Recommended taking advantage of existing farm-to-school infrastructure from other districts to ease implementation.
6. Managing Communications on Health and Wellness Topics
- Recommended an information clearinghouse on SBCEO website so schools and districts can easily find others who have already implemented programs of interest.
- Recommended using social media, such as Instagram, to share health and wellness information through contests and other student-friendly activities.
- Recommended inclusion of students on wellness committees.
7. Food Literacy and Wellness Education
- Recommended in-depth sharing of Harvest of the Month curriculum for breadth of subject matter and teacher engagement, as well as ease of implementation.
- Recommended enthusiastic celebration of National Food Day (October 24 this year!)
8. Green Campuses = Healthy Environments
- Recommended expansion of Hydration Stations, which make water readily available and reduce plastic bottle usage.
- Recommended the move from disposables to durables, while noting challenges related to dishwashing (absence of dishwashing equipment and current drought conditions).
- Recommended greater efforts to maintain School Gardens, potentially including more hours for Garden Educators and greater parent participation.
9. Professionalizing Food Service Workers
- Recommended moving from part-timers to full timers with benefits, because of the need for highly skilled people to meet ever more exacting regulations.
- Recommended cross-training food service workers to build quality and pride, and to groom people for next levels of management.
10. Wild Card
- Reminded the group that staff wellness is equally important with student wellness.
- Reinforced the need for adults on campus to model good behaviors and publicize the importance of workplace wellness.
- Recommended regular communication with tips on healthy recipes, stress reduction, exercise videos, community resources, etc.
Note how often these recommendations include a need for better or more communication, and you will understand one of our key objectives in holding this Summit in the first place. In the two weeks since the Summit, we’ve been copied on numerous emails from attendees sharing new information and ideas with their peers. No one is against turning schools into centers of health and wellness; the trick is doing so effectively and efficiently, so improved communication helps a lot. So does money, and in Part 5 of this series, we’ll hear from the Panel on Changing Culture: Programs that PAY.
Dean Zatkowsky is Communications Manager at the Orfalea Foundation.