New Year's Resolutions
This week, many schools around Indianapolis are reopening their doors to students after a summer away. A new school year provides opportunities for school leadership to implement new plans and goals for improvement, and this year the school district of Warren Township is implementing some new year's resolutions of their own. Superintendent Dr. Timothy Hanson and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Russel are hoping to focus on the district's view of health and wellness. Warren Township has a new District Wellness Policy that has a larger focus on physical activity in schools as well as stronger nutrition standards. This new wellness policy is much more comprehensive than the district's original and provides an encouraging stepping stone as the district moves forward to make health and wellness a priority in all of its schools.
As summer starts to wind down and the school year begins to get closer, the realities of school lunches creep closer as well. School lunches are a hot topic, and it's not hard to see why. For many students, school lunch represents a big portion of the food they consume daily. In recent years, many new health initiatives have been put in place to create healthier and tastier options for students eating at school, but many school lunches are still far from perfect.
What is a school wellness policy?
In 2004, Congress passed a law stating that each local educational agency (including school districts) that participates in the National School Lunch Program, or any other federal child nutrition program, is required by federal law to establish a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction.
This is the last blog post of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. But Harrison Hill is unusual as a community school: services that families need are accessible at the school (part 1), and School Community Liaison Neal Gore has developed an exceptionally robust family engagement program (part 2). The third piece of this work is improving kids' health by creating a healthy environment where making good nutrition and physical activity choices are part of daily life.
This is part two of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. Thanks to Community Liaison Neal Gore, family engagement is front and center at Harrison Hill, and that engagement has enabled the school to teach families healthy habits regarding nutrition and physical activity on a collaborative scale that we at Jump IN haven’t seen at any other schools. Neal is interested in not only creating a healthy school, he’s also trying to create a healthier neighborhood.
He’s doing it by opening up the school outside of school hours and invited families to participate in dozens of different activities for Family Engagement Nights. He calls this part of his job, “my most fun thing!” Family Engagement nights are six-week-long sessions that happen four times a year. The school is in its fourth year of offering them and on any given Family Engagement night as many as a hundred people might be participating. These are free, and they include a sit-down dinner with the other families, sponsored by Chef Suzanne (Neal has calculated that she has donated more than 10,000 meals over the last four years – wow!).
This is part one of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. Family engagement is front and center at Harrison Hill, and that engagement has enabled the school to teach families healthy habits regarding nutrition and physical activity on a collaborative scale that we at Jump IN haven’t seen at any other schools. The driver of this engagement is Neal Gore, the school’s Community Liaison. Neal’s wife has been a teacher at the school for a long time, and their family has a strong belief in “being present,” meaning that they live in the neighborhood where the school is, send their kids to the school, and are committed to engaging as community members - as Neal puts it, “living where you’re making a difference, not outside of it.” Neal joined Harrison Hill four years ago, when the school was applying to the United Way of Central Indiana for a Student Success grant to model the school as a “community school.” Neal was part of the group working on the grant, and when the school got the grant, Neal joined the staff to implement it. It was a sizable grant, over $400,000 over three years. It’s now one year past the end of the grant, and Neal has worked hard to make the concept self-sustaining.
Did you know? Jump IN for Healthy Kids is fortunate and honored to be one of the 50 organizations competing for the $250,000 Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge. The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties. The partnership empowers small to mid-size U.S. cities and counties to create a positive health impact. 50 communities were selected by competitive process to be part of the Challenge, and Jump IN's community demonstration project in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside (GLFE) was selected as one of the 50. Jump IN's work and the work of our partners is broad and deep, and we've listed nearly everything below that we're up to in GLFE, so it's a bit of a long read, but we really wanted to tell you about our work. It's a lot, and there are wonderful partners and grassroots efforts that are helping improve the health of residents every day. If we are fortunate enough to win the Challenge, the prize money will go directly into the GLFE community to continue and expand our work.
Physical activity is important to the overall health and well-being of everyone, including school-age children. The benefits are well documented and include significant reduction in health risks, building and maintenance of strong bones and muscles, improved health-related fitness, and positive social and mental health. Increasing scientific evidence suggests that healthier students are also better learners, and physical activity can improve academic achievement.
Schools are in an ideal position to influence children's health through increased physical activity, because school is where most children spend the majority of their time outside of home. A School Wellness Policy can help guide these efforts.
Halloween may come just once a year, but when candy and sweet treats take center stage at our celebrations, the cumulative long-term consequences are scary.
Shift the focus of your Halloween celebration away from candy and have fun with healthy snacks, active games, and non-food prizes instead.
Did you know that simple marketing and presentation strategies can affect the number of fruits and vegetables that students eat? Here are some Smarter Lunchroom strategies that encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables:
Focus on Fruit
Offer at least two different kinds of fruit
Think beyond apples, bananas, and oranges. Smarter Lunchrooms expose students to a wide variety of fruits, including grapes, watermelon, mandarin oranges, peaches, berries, and kiwi. Fresh, frozen, dried, and canned are all equally nutritious.