With 66 schools in the Pasadena Independent School District, each at a different stage of implementing a revised wellness plan, a change was needed to ensure it aligned with national standards. That’s where the Healthy Schools Program comes in.
Beginning in 2004, Congress required all schools participating in federal child nutrition programs to create school wellness policies, which set goals and outline guidelines that help school districts protect and students’ health. In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule to update the guidelines, giving districts a June 30, 2017 deadline to comply.
Texas’s Pasadena Independent School District took advantage of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program tools and resources to improve its wellness policy progress tracking and evaluation, as outlined in the final rule. Read their story and find resources to support your district’s wellness policy at WellnessWins.org.
By Amber Macneish, Coordinated School Health Specialist
In my 14 years with the Pasadena Independent School District, I’ve seen firsthand that healthy, happy and active children make better learners. Last summer, Healthy Schools Program Manager Jeannine Rios sent me an email, and I knew from our first conversation that both she and the Healthy Schools Program shared Pasadena’s vision for school environments that make the healthy choice, the easy choice. We started working with the Healthy Schools Program just a few weeks later.
In my district, we already had the infrastructure in place to achieve our wellness goals. Texas requires districts to create School Health Advisory Councils (known as SHACs) that consist of parents and community members who provide direction to the school board about which health and wellness topics to tackle. Each school in Pasadena also has a campus health advisory committee that is responsible for achieving the district’s goals. As the Coordinated School Health Specialist, I meet with the school committee chairs bi-annually, helping them evaluate their progress and plan for the next semester.
But with 66 schools in the district, each at a different stage of implementing our recently revised wellness policy, I needed a systematic way to document schools’ progress and ensure that we were aligned with national standards.
That’s where the Healthy Schools Program comes in. Jeannine walked me through the Healthy Schools Program Assessment, which provides a status check for schools on various health and wellness measures. The process really opened my eyes. I not only realized that this tool could meet the district’s evaluation needs, but also that there were many more opportunities to infuse wellness into the school day.
We are now working with principals and the district education committee to gain support for the use of the Healthy Schools Assessment as our evaluation tool to track progress toward the implementation of our wellness policy.
We’re so proud of the progress we’re already making toward implementing our updated wellness policy, and now we have a system in place to measure and report on our success! We plan to use the results from each year’s assessment to re-evaluate our wellness goals and make adjustments. Working with the Healthy Schools Program, we’ll be able to make informed decisions about how to take our district’s wellness efforts to the next level, one step at a time.