Reducing Collective Weight: Starting Suggestions

Environmental change — in a school system or any other organization — doesn’t come cheaply.

Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a three-year intervention to prevent obesity in culturally diverse, high-risk, early-elementary school children. Additional support came from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Dole, Stonyfield Farm, U.S. Potato Board and Whole Foods Market.

Even with resources in hand, it can be hard to get started. The Shape Up Somerville team offers these tips:

Identify and nurture champions. These can include food service directors, principals and school committee members. Some may need a little nudge to get things started on their own; others are already leading.

Secure buy-in from the principal. This is key. Principals have the authority and on-the-ground relationships to implement new policies and programs.

Keep everyone informed of what you are doing. This means everyone from the school committee to parents. Continuous communication can build support for change.

Provide training. Periodic professional development allows for growth in relationships and continued empowerment for those being asked to do their work in very different ways.

Build on community assets. It’s the best way to ensure sustainable success and will have the most meaningful impact on the students you serve.

— Sarah Cluggish and Gretchen Kinder