School Wellness Learning Forum
Your School Wellness Policy: The Next Step
First in Series: School Nutrition
January 30, 2012
Download a PDF of these proceedings: Partnership School Nutrition Learning Forum
Mimi Stamer, Director of School Health Services, Needham Public Schools
In 2010 Massachusetts passed the Act Relative to School Nutrition, which requires standards to be set for competitive foods and beverages sold or provided in public schools during the school day. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has passed regulations that will become effective August 1, 2012. Those have been published in Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Guidance for Implementing the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages.
Needham Public Schools has found it helpful to consider change theory. They consulted William Bridges' change theory, which recommends connecting people to the change.
All the stakeholders, including parents, should be brought together. Old systems need to be evaluated and dismantled as needed - a balance of old and new is most effective. Cultural norms and values must be considered as well as district norms and values to see where realignment is needed. It is important to have the conversation about where wellness fits into the district. It is also important to recognize that while parents and families have primary responsibility, the school and community play an important supporting role. School Wellness Committees and Health Advisory Committees play an important role.
Recommendations given included:
It is essential that districts come to a consensus on wellness policy and commit to it at all levels to increase success.
Tom Burke agreed that it is important to get the word out that change is coming. This can be done through parent meetings and other school and community events. For example, a table at a health fair can include fresh fruit and vegetables, videos, and coloring books.
Brockton has several successful partnerships, including with UMass Extension. This year cooking demonstrations were done in every school for parents. Simple menus with simple items were used to help breakdown any preconceptions that healthy eating is difficult or expensive. Useful information such as comparing the prices of hamburger and chicken shows that healthy eating doesn't have to be expensive.
Other suggestions given were:
Community partnerships can support schools in their need to give students healthy, tasty, and affordable options and to educate parents about affordable healthy foods.
Educating parents, students, and staff on nutritional values is essential to instituting changes successfully. Staff should be informed at the beginning of the school year; then parents and students should be involved. Changing their perceptions is necessary for the district's changes to be accepted.
In these hard financial times, often health classes have to be cut. Schools need more ways to educate students and parents.
Some suggestions offered were:
It is essential that schools get the word out and fund healthy eating.
Roles and responsibilities of school committees have changed. In addition to appointing and reviewing the superintendent and to overseeing the budget, school committees are responsible for setting policy for the district. So it is very important that they be involved in policy changes from the beginning.
School committee members need information not only to make informed decisions, but also to defend those to decisions to parents and the community.
Peer education is important and effective. Students at younger ages are starting to ask questions about food: What makes a healthy item healthy? Older students who are taking more responsibility for their health can help educate younger students. Youth Advisory Councils can be formed to have students meet with food service staff to the benefit of both - the staff learns what the students want and the students are educated to take the message to other students.
Having open communication with students and reaching them one-on-one is essential for breaking down any barriers for reluctant students or parents.
State Standards for School Wellness Committees are published in Massachusetts Regulation 105CMR215. (Click here to download a PDF of that regulation: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/regs/105cmr215-school-wellness.pdf.)
In Needham, the Wellness Committee is led by an Advisory Committee. The administrator of each building has to enforce the policies.
A Partnership learning forum on creating school wellness committees will be scheduled soon.
Planning committee members