Local Wellness Policies: Who’s On the Team?

In School Nutrition’s August 2015 issue, “Healthy School Environments: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” author Arianne Corbett, RD, takes a look back at 10 years of local school wellness policy progress. How can your district match some of the best practice results of those profiled in the magazine? A critical key to the success of a local school wellness policy is having the right mix of people on your wellness committee—starting with representatives from the school nutrition department! Beyond that, consider the suggestions that follow below, adapted from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s School Wellness Council Toolkit

Administrators:

Administrative support is instrumental to your ongoing efforts to promote a healthy environment. The superintendent, principals and other district and building administrators should be invited to participate. At the very least, keep them informed of your planning activities. 

Teachers:

Typically health education and physical education teachers are considered the most natural champions in schools for student health issues. They can provide curricular support, as well as engage staff in wellness activities. (In many elementary schools, classroom teachers teach health education and their input is valuable when determining health education instructional time and class content.) But really, all teachers in your district have a vested interest in healthy students and staff. Identify those who show an interest and commitment to health issues.

School Nurses:

The school nurse is a natural coordinator and expert on school health matters. 

Parents/Family Members:

Involvement of family members ensures that efforts will reach beyond the school. In addition, parents can spread the word to other parents and help gain support for programs and policies.

Students:

Many of the changes will impact students directly. Involving them in decisions will limit resistance and can make programs more successful.

Local Health Department Representatives:

Public health departments are committed to addressing childhood obesity and understand the role of changing environments to make “healthy choices, easy choices.” Local health departments often have access to community resources and other organizations, as well. Most public health departments have data on student health behaviors that can help make a case for health programs and policy changes in regards to healthy eating and physical activity.

Members of the Business Community:

The business community has a stake in helping young people be healthy and successful in school. In addition, they may have resources that can be leveraged to support wellness priorities for students and staff.

Representatives from Local Coalitions:

Many communities have groups that address youth issues or childhood obesity specifically. Think about including members from these groups, as they are often eager to work with schools.

School Board Members:

School board member involvement in school wellness committees is a way to ensure your priorities have an informed advocate when the board discusses various related agenda items.  School board members are often engaged with the district and schools over a long period of time, so their involvement may increase the sustainability of your efforts.

School Custodians:

Your school custodian often has valuable insights and observations. Custodians are aware of environmental issues, amount of food waste, transportation issues and also may have observed concerns of students, because of their interaction in the hallways and on school grounds. Building buy-in with these professionals also can help efforts to start breakfast in the classroom and breakfast after the bell programs.

Healthcare Professionals:

A local doctor or nurse is often a knowledgeable professional who is respected in the community. As a school wellness committee member, she or he may be able to provide helpful insights and later promote key messages on behalf of the school wellness committee to families and the community at large.

Parks & Recreation DepartmentRepresentatives:

In addition to physical education and physical activity offered during school hours, physical activity opportunities before and after school are also important to take into consideration for wellness efforts. Parks and Recreation Departments often run sports and recreation programs that students and staff can access and representatives may have a unique perspective and ideas.

Members of Youth-Serving Community Organizations:

Youth-serving organizations often offer afterschool or other community programs that might be available to students. They are also generally aware of other community programs and services for kids.

Maintenance and Transportation StaffMembers:

Maintenance staff members keep school facilities in good working condition. Transportation staff members can help with coordinating a walking school bus and getting students to and from before and afterschool activities. These staff members may also have a unique opportunity to work with students outside of the regular school day.

Also consider inviting someone with demonstrated experience in writing successful grant proposals. Grant money could be essential to getting the equipment and marketing support you need to launch your top wellness initiatives.

 


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