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Avenues for Introducing

Healthy Foods    

 

BY MARIAN KISCH

Improving competitive-foods policies and practices in a school district can be cumbersome and contentious. School administrators who have been down that road raised some points that could benefit colleagues.

Educate and involve all stakeholders. In the Archuleta School District in Pagosa Springs, Colo., leaders reached out to influential people in the community, asking for their views about how to address the health of its students. Assistant Superintendent Linda Reed says dissenters should be invited into the process, along with students, who are those most affected by policy changes. The latter group can become your best ally or your worst enemy if left out of discussions. Respect cultural differences, too. Keep the school board informed so the members will be prepared if complaints reach them.

Invite food service personnel into the classroom. In Norwood, Ohio, food service workers bring common and exotic fruits and vegetable into the classrooms for a “show, taste and tell.” They discuss the origin, characteristics and preparation methods for each item and allow students to sample each one. Students are encouraged to say, “That’s not my favorite,” rather than “That’s gross” if they don’t like the food item, so as not to influence others. Food service staff also read relevant stories in the classroom — for example, Green Eggs and Ham on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Offer alternatives to fundraisers. Instead of selling chocolates, beef jerky and cookie dough, Fairview Elementary School in Klamath Falls, Ore., focuses on healthy activities like walkathons, running or walking races with sponsored participation and raffles for sports equipment.

View change as a marathon, not a sprint. At Enslow Middle School in Huntington, W.Va., the school leadership made changes slowly to minimize resistance from students and parents. They also empowered students to contribute to the process.

Eliminate food rewards in the classroom. Winners of class competitions at Fairview Elementary receive a trip to a gymnastics academy, jump playhouse or trampoline gym instead of a pizza, soda and junk-food party.

Partner with organizations to promote good eating habits. Kid Power’s Operation Lunch Line, an interactive musical program offered to 4th graders, has been successful in promoting good nutrition and physical activity in Norwood. High schoolers act as wellness ambassadors during the program.

Apply for outside grants and insurance reductions. Check with partners, nonprofit groups and foundations about grant awards for health and wellness projects. Also, ask your insurance company about reducing your district’s health insurance premiums for staff health and wellness activities. 

 

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