Providence Strives for Healthier Children
The evidence is clear that healthier schools positively influence the long-term health of students and improve academic achievement. The Providence District Wellness Committee is a collaborative, community-school advisory group that works to foster a healthy school environment so that students and staff can thrive.
This article was written by Bobby Gondola and Jennifer Quigley-Harris.
Bobby Gondola is a School Board member and chair of the Providence Public School District (PPSD) Wellness Committee. Jennifer Quigley-Harris is a member of the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition and a parent of a student in Providence schools.
As members of this committee, we care deeply about the health and future of all Providence youth. Thousands of Providence children spend the majority of their waking hours and eat more than half of their daily calories at school. The Wellness Committee believes strongly that Providence schools should take an active role in helping these children to learn and practice healthy eating and physical activity habits.
As part of our District Wellness Committee’s commitment to better health outcomes for students, we worked diligently this school year to update and enhance our Wellness Policy, with feedback from student, parent community, and district stakeholders. The revised policy supports federal and state goals for recess and physical activity opportunities; boosts increased access to healthy, locally sourced and culturally diverse meals and snacks; and encourages consistency when promoting, modeling and marketing healthier eating. Our policy endorses healthier classroom celebrations, advocates for school gardens and directly connects lessons taught in health and physical education classes to everyday practices in schools.
The committee’s charge is not limited to exercise and nutrition. In addition, our work expands beyond federal policy standards to include a focus on social-emotional learning and the development of healthy relationships.
While developing a comprehensive school wellness policy is an important step, we have more work to do to see that our schools have the commitment and support needed to teach and model essential healthy skills. Raising awareness that all children deserve to go to a healthy school no matter where they live or what school they attend is essential. Ensuring that our entire community is actively working every day to guarantee full compliance with school wellness policy is critical.
Our Wellness Committee members are proud champions for comprehensive school health and wellness, and the work we do helps push Rhode Island as a whole toward better health. Children who grow up learning how to live healthy lifestyles are better equipped to navigate the challenges and complexities they will experience throughout life. Eating healthy and being physically active are integral parts of changing the national chronic disease statistics so that all children may reach their maximum potential to become strong community leaders and active participants in our communities.