No experience has ever broadened my perspective the way teaching has. On a daily basis, I bear witness to the small miracles happening in and around my school by the people doing incredible work on behalf of our students and their families. At the same time however, I am also witness to some of the gross injustices in my community that make social, economic, and academic mobility so difficult.
I remember Tyrone, a tall, confident student who is as loquacious as he is bright, walking into my classroom with three bags of salt & vinegar chips, a donut, and a can of Coke at 7:30 in the morning. Initially, I thought of this as simply a one-off occurrence—nothing more than a young boy with teenage taste buds reveling in the freedom to have chips for breakfast every once in a while—harmless. As the days and weeks went on however, the presence of chips, candy, and donuts dangling from Tyrone’s fingers became a classroom staple along with his inability to stay awake in class. “Tyrone, how can you eat such junk so early in the morning?”
“I mean, it’s not like there’s anything else to eat,” he responded matter-of-factly. Taken aback I asked, “Surely you could have gotten some fruit—an apple, a banana, some oranges?” With unapologetic pragmatism, Tyrone replied. “Where would I get that from? There are no grocery stores around here, and these gas stations don’t sell fruit. Come on, Mr. Smith.”
26.5 million Americans live in food deserts, which disproportionately exist in communities of color. Having never lived outside of this neighborhood, my student, Tyrone knows no other reality. Unaware of the correlation between access to healthy food and skin color, he has yet to realize the deep connection between his zip code and his health.
What my kids do or do not eat affects how they are able to perform when they come to my class. Where grocery stores do or do not decide to build affects the health of my students and their families. What places do or do not accept WIC and food stamps affects the life expectancies of the residents in a community.
Whether it is Tyrone, Briana, Jose, or Olivia, the unwarranted difficulty that so many students in low-income neighborhoods experience accessing healthy food has pervasive effects on their ability to succeed academically.
As an educator, I have seen my role in the classroom expand. While some may perceive us as solely academic facilitators, we are also spokespersons for our students and their causes. We champion not only their intellect, but also their well-being.
Please watch "Place Matters" by Clint Smith and share!
Clint Smith is a teacher at Parkdale High School in Prince George's County, Maryland. Clint was also awarded the 2013 Christine D. Sarbanes Maryland Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council.
This blog originally posted on May 2nd, 2013
This month, individuals from all sectors of the school community raised their voice in support of healthier school food for children. Op-eds from policymakers, educators, parents and military leaders were recently featured in major newspapers to convey a collective message: strong nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks are critical to creating healthy school environments for our nation’s kids.
Why now? Well, research shows that every day, about 40 percent of students buy snacks at school, and nearly 70 percent buy sugary drinks. Why does this matter? Many snacks and drinks available for sale at school -- through vending machines, à la carte lines, school stores and fundraisers -- are high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and low in nutritional value.
By giving kids healthier choices at school, we give them a better chance at being and staying healthy. In fact, reports show that when schools switch to selling healthier snack foods and beverages kids’ diets improve and schools don’t lose revenue.
Note: This blog was originally featured on NEA HIN's sister website, www.BagtheJunk.org
Every day, about 40 percent of students buy snacks at school, and nearly 70 percent buy sugary drinks. Many snacks and drinks available for sale at school -- through vending machines, à la carte lines, school stores and fundraisers -- are high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and low in nutritional value.
That’s why in February 2013, for the first time in 30 years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed national nutrition standards for all foods and drinks sold on school campuses. As required by the federal rulemaking process, the proposed standards were open for public comment through April 9.
NEA HIN weighed in to express our belief that strong nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools will make help improve the diet and long-term health of millions of children across the country. In particular, NEA HIN supports:
- Having standards that apply to all snacks and beverages sold in schools, across the school campus, and throughout the school day (until at least 30 minutes after the last class ends).
- The sale of foods that limit calories, fats, sugars, and salt, as well as provide a positive nutritional benefit, such as be a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain, or naturally contain meaningful amounts of a nutrient of priority public health concern (i.e., calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).
- Disallowing the sale of sugary drinks, like full-calorie sodas and sports drinks, during the school day.
- Requiring that all beverages sold in elementary, middle and high schools are caffeine-free, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations.
- Having potable water readily accessible to students at no charge during school lunch and breakfast meal service.
- Allowing states and local schools to put in place additional or stronger standards for snack foods and beverages sold in schools, as long as those standards are consistent with the minimum federal standards.
If you’re interested in learning about how to take action for healthier foods and drinks in your school, please visit our sister site, www.BagtheJunk.org, which has free information, resources, and advocacy tools for readers.
Published: Saturday, Apr. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11A http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/06/5320555/viewpoints-schools-need-to-help.html
As a mom and teacher, I am challenged again and again by the amount of junk food in our nation's schools. Like all parents, I want my child to be healthy, happy and successful.
The same is true for teachers. We're in it for the kids; our goal is to help them thrive. From both sides of the fence, I do the best I can with the time and resources I have, but I need help, and I expect schools to back my efforts.
Whether we're relying on the school lunch or brown-bagging it, parents want to make sure our kids get a good, nutritious meal. Yet often the choices we make for kids can't compete against what the vending machines and à la carte lines have to offer. Should we really be surprised if our third-graders use their milk money to buy a cleverly-branded sugary drink?
When I taught in elementary and middle schools in San Bernardino, I often struggled to keep students focused after lunch. Every day, I battled the afternoon slump brought on by the chips, cookies, soda and other empty calories kids had consumed before class.
There's simply no good reason to sell unhealthy fare in our schools. It undermines parents' efforts to raise healthy kids, makes it harder for teachers to do their jobs well, and contributes to an obesity epidemic that threatens the health of more than 23.5 million children and teens.
About 40 percent of students buy and eat one or more snacks at school, and almost 70 percent buy and consume at least one sugary drink. One report found that students consume almost 400 billion calories from junk foods sold in our nation's schools each year. These numbers are appalling; it shouldn't have to be this way.
Thankfully, here in California, our schools tell a different story. My daughter was in third grade in 2007 when California set limits for the calories, fat and sugar content of school snacks. This law, and the 2009 law that banned some sugary drinks in our state's high schools, helped my daughter and her peers recognize the importance of healthy eating because our schools started to reinforce what so many parents are doing at home.
Compared with many other states, California's nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks are quite strong. But the state does allow middle and high schools to sell sugary sports drinks, and all public schools can sell 2 percent milk, as opposed to low-fat options like 1 percent or skim. Worse yet are the states that offer kids little or no protection against the widespread availability of junk foods and unhealthy drinks at school.
This may change soon, however, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new national standards for school snacks and drinks, which have not been updated since 1979. If USDA issues strong final standards, it will help ensure that kids have healthy choices in the vending machines, à la carte lines and stores available at school – no matter where they live. Such standards will help complement the new nutrition standards for school meals that went into effect in fall 2012.
These standards support the efforts of parents and the ability of kids to learn, and there are other important benefits as well. Restricting sales of unhealthy fare has also been shown to improve children's diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
Improving school foods won't solve all the problems we face as parents and teachers, but it's a critical step in improving the health of this generation and those to come. We should tell USDA we support their efforts and encourage schools to stand with us for healthy kids.
Mikki Cichocki, who is assigned to youth services in San Bernardino City Unified School District, is secretary-treasurer of the California Teachers Association.
The lessons I have learned from my training as a military pilot may help other parents navigate the route to raising healthy children in today’s challenging environment. http://www.neahin.org/bagthejunk/blog/a-pilots-perspective-on.html.
April 5th is the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we honor Dr. King’s astonishing legacy and celebrate the civil rights gains that he inspired, the NEA Health Information Network also recognizes that we as a nation have not done enough to ensure that all minority communities have quality access to health and healthcare.
This disparity has received federal attention. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established April as National Minority Health Month to recognize the disproportionate rates of access and achieve health equity.
This year, the theme of National Minority Health Month is, Advance Health Equity Now: Uniting Our Communities to Bring Health Care Coverage to All.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has outlined a clear action plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities:
- Transform health care;
- Strengthen the nation’s health and human services infrastructure and workforce;
- Advance health, safety and well-being of the American People;
- Advance scientific knowledge and innovation; and
- Increase efficiency, transparency and accountability of HHS programs
Many federal agencies partner in this effort: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), to name a few.
In support of such work, NEA HIN implements a number of programs that focus on the health issues that disproportionately affect minority populations. In the area of nutrition, NEA HIN recognizes that the prevalence of obesity disproportionately affects African-American, Hispanic, and Native American children. That’s one reason why NEA HIN has launched the Bag the Junk initiative, to ensure all children have access to healthier food and beverage choices in schools.
NEA HIN also knows that Black and Hispanic households with higher rates of food insecurity, over 25 percent. That’s one reason why NEA HIN launched a Breakfast in the Classroom initiative to increase breakfast consumption among schoolchildren and spark the academic and nutritional gains associated with the morning meal. Since 2010, NEA HIN has worked in 13 high-need school districts to help bring breakfast into the classroom to all children.
Approximately 7 million children (ages 0 to 17) in the U.S. have asthma, with poor and minority children suffering a greater burden of the disease. 16 percent of non-Hispanic black children suffer from asthma in the U.S. compared to 8.2 percent among non-Hispanic white and 7.9 percent among Hispanic children. NEA HIN’s environmental health programs aim to educate NEA members on asthma and help reduce exposure to common asthma triggers in schools. Learn more about asthma and asthma triggers by taking NEA HIN’s online course Managing Asthma in the School Environment: What NEA Members Need to Know. To access the course, go to www.neaacademy.org/leader-to-leader/managing-asthma-in-the-school-environment-what-nea-members-need-to-know.html.
During National Minority Health Month, you can visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website to get more information about health care initiatives, statistics, publications and workshops on minority health. You might be inspired by a way you can take an action to help improve the health of our communities and increase access to quality, affordable health care for everyone.
In 1920, Charles-Edward Amory Winslow defined public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.”
That’s a mouthful—but the focus is to help people live healthy lives. By focusing groups of people, public health can support critical services that promote the health and well-being of particular populations, including children. Public health programs help address the challenges that students experience.
- Asthma is a leading cause of school absences. Public health teaches us to look beyond the needs of one student and focus on asthmagens in the building environment.
- Each year as flu season approaches, public health departments work with school nurses and allied health professionals to provide school-based vaccine programs. These clinics can also be opened up to families and community members to expand prevention.
- With childhood obesity identified as a major health problem public health helps schools look at the policies and the programs that can promote physical activity and healthier food choices.
- Because the first job of schools is to provide education and instruction, public health programs can provide support for standards-based health education that build the skills and knowledge students need to avoid risky behaviors such as substance abuse.
Whatever the health issue, public health departments can be there to help schools do a better job. Learn more about how to partner with health departments. Have you worked with your health department? Tell us about it.
You’ve likely heard the good news that childhood obesity rates are beginning to level off in some parts of the country – including New York City, Philadelphia, Mississippi and California. Although we’re seeing some improvements, childhood obesity rates remain disproportionately high in communities of color.
One thing we can do to address this problem is help children be more active. People who live in communities of color often have fewer opportunities to get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. They often lack high-quality, well-maintained recreational facilities, parks, sidewalks and green spaces where kids can walk, bike or play. In addition, crime and dangerous traffic often prevent children in communities of color from walking or biking to school – even if they want to.
Physical inactivity has no doubt contributed to the fact that nearly four in ten African American and Hispanic children and adolescents are overweight or obese. As we work to break down the barriers that prevent kids from being active in our communities, let’s make the most of the opportunities to encourage and support physical activity in our schools.
As educators, you’re aware that most kids spend nearly half of their waking hours in school. But very few have regular time for physical activity. In fact, daily physical education is provided in only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools across the nation.
The federal Physical Activity Guidelines for youths suggest 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day, and just recently the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition found that the most evidence points to school-based programs when it comes to increasing physical activity among youths.
Providing our students with opportunities for quality physical activity during school will improve their health, and it may also help raise test scores. Studies have shown integrating physical activity and education classes into the normal school day not only improves fitness, but also can improve students’ academic achievement by increasing their attention span and concentration, reducing boredom and anxiety, and increasing students’ self-esteem. Simply put, when students get to be physically active, they are better behaved, more focused, and more ready to learn.
It’s clear that students of color continue to face difficult barriers to living healthy, successful lives. That’s why it’s so important that we work together - as advocates and educators - to promote strategies and policies that work. By investing time and resources into quality physical education classes and increasing opportunities for physical activity in school, we can help every student in every school learn better and live healthier.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a policy consulting firm in Washington, DC and director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Say St. Patrick's Day to Americans and some might think of Ireland, shamrocks, and green beer. Others might think of soda bread and potatoes. But no matter how you celebrate this popular saint's day you can make your St. Patrick's Day feast a rainbow of Irish delights.
Potato soup is a common first course; you can give it some color by adding roasted red peppers or by combining orange sweet potatoes with traditional white potatoes. Here is a recipe to get you started. You can make it even healthier by reducing the amount of butter and substituting 1% or skim milk.
Nothing says green more than a salad. In addition to the lettuce, a traditional Irish salad contains purple beets, red onions, and pickles. You could also add a hard-boiled egg or two to make this a heartier main-course dish. One egg per person is plenty.
If you want a heartier main course, there is nothing like a traditional Irish stew. Think orange and green here by adding carrots and peas to your meat. A quick Google search turns up lots of variations including those that add green or red peppers, red onions, or even yellow parsnips.
For dessert you can go purple, with a traditional rhubarb crumble. Remember rhubarb does not always need as much sugar as the recipe calls for. Blueberries (frozen are fine) make a nice substitute. Top with low fat or no fat yogurt.
Of course, you don't have to stick to traditional Irish foods to eat the rainbow. There are lots of other fruits and vegetables such as plums, star fruit, grapes, purple kale, and greens that you can easily find in the grocery.
Make a rainbow of foods to reach your nutritional pot of gold. What’s in your rainbow?
Hundreds of leaders from public, private, and non-profit organizations - all committed to solving the childhood obesity crisis in America - gathered in Washington, D.C. last week to attend the Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Building a Healthier Future Summit.” I was privileged to attend and participate in the discussion.
Highlights of the 2-day event included a “Great American School Lunch Challenge” cook-off with Chefs Anne Burrell and Jose Garces, breakout sessions on strategies to promote healthy eating and active living, and an End Childhood Obesity Innovation Challenge that highlighted three talented young entrepreneurs not to mention an amazing closing plenary session with speeches from Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker, NY Giants Quarterback Eli Manning, and First Lady Michelle Obama!
Interesting in reading more about my experience at the Summit? Check out my live tweets from the event for highlights and notable quotes: https://twitter.com/BagtheJunk
On Saturday, March 2nd I traveled to Brooklyn, NY to attend the Food Power! Blogger Conference hosted by MomsRising. It was a cold day outside, but inside the air was abuzz with energy from over 100 bloggers and attendees gathered for the event. The morning started off with a BIG surprise – a video welcome from none other than First Lady Michelle Obama! Mrs. Obama welcomed the crowd and spoke about the important role that parents have in helping kids eat healthier and get the physical activity they need to thrive.
Following the video message we heard from Marty Kearns about preventobesity.net, an online community that seeks to build networks to move social change forward. The website has lots of free resources for bloggers including widgets, a “map of the movement” and the opportunity to connect with healthy eating and active living advocates nationwide. I encourage our readers to check out the site too, since as Marty put it, “when leaders connect, good things happen.”
Good things continued to happen at Food Power, too. Next we heard inspiring stories of struggle and success from two “Moms on the Front Lines”: Tanya Fields, founder of The BLK ProjeK, and Migdalia Rivera, founder of Latina on a Mission. Both women spoke about the struggle to feed their families healthy food on a tight budget and lessons learned from their experiences. Tanya spoke about how she believes that “children need palate re-education” to enjoy fresh wholesome food if they grew up on a diet of processed food. According to Tanya, it takes time, but with patience and persistence, healthy eating habits do stick. Migdalia spoke of similar struggles with getting her overweight son to eat better, and the need for parents to “teach kids how to eat well so they themselves can become ambassadors for healthy food.” While each spoke from their own experience, Tanya and Migdalia preached a common message: parents and other adults are a powerful force in the lives of children, so it’s important to teach and model healthy habits every day.
Next we were treated to lunch and a screening of Soul Food Junkies, a film by Byron Hurt that “explores the history and social significance of soul food to black cultural identity and its effect on African American health, good and bad.” After the screening we had a brief Q&A with the filmmaker and two healthy food advocates: Dr. Aletha Maybank from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Jessica Donze Black from the Kid’s Safe & Healthful Foods Project. The group spoke about strategies to get involved as advocates for health: whether it is through modeling healthy habits to your family, participating in your school’s wellness committee, exercising your right to comment on proposed federal nutrition standards, or utilizing health resources provided by your city or town.
Full from lunch and inspired by the film and panel discussion, we then split up into breakout sessions on school foods, food marketing to kids, and breastfeeding. The school foods session was led by me, Jessica Donze Black (Kids Safe & Healthful Foods Project), Yoli Ouiya (NY Coalition for Healthy School Food) and Elisa Batista (MomsRising.org).Jessica and Yoli provided an overview of the history behind snack foods and drinks in schools and research supporting why it’s important to have healthier options available. Elisa and I focused specifically on ways advocates and bloggers can get more involved on the issue including visiting NEA HIN’s BagtheJunk.org site to learn more about school foods, access free resources and share personal stories. For those of you who couldn’t be there for the conference I encourage you to do the same. And for a play-by-play of the conference, check out the @BagtheJunk twitter feed, which has all my live tweets from the event.
We had a great week and next week is going to be even better.
Bette Simpson's piece on giving talked about the unexpected benefits of volunteering and donating.
On Wednesday, we kicked off our celebration of National School Breakfast Week with this blog from Annelise Cohon. National School Breakfast Week starts Monday, March 4th. Visit our NSBW page for more information.
Today is March 1st so remember to wind your watches and get ready for start of National Nutrition Month and National School Breakfast Week!
More than 16 million children in the U.S. struggle with hunger, or one out of five American kids. Teachers see this hunger first-hand in their classrooms. In a recent survey, three out of five K-8 public school teachers said they taught kids who regularly came to school hungry because they weren’t getting enough to eat at home.
What if I told you that there was a solution? There is, and it’s called school breakfast.
Anecdotally, we constantly hear of schools that serve breakfast to all their kids, but only during testing week because educators acknowledge the connection between breakfast and success. New analysis released by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign backs up that connection with research showing that the simple act of feeding kids a healthy school breakfast has the potential for a dramatic impact on their academic, health and economic futures.
In “Ending Child Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis,” a new report by Deloitte and the No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices, data underscores the fact that federal programs like school breakfast are not only important in the fight to end childhood hunger, but also have potential long term positive impacts on academic achievement and job readiness. Deloitte analyzed publicly available data and academic research findings and found that, on average, students who eat school breakfast have been shown to achieve 17.5% higher scores on standardized math tests and attend 1.5 more days of school per year.
These impacts have potential long-term economic benefits as well. Students who attend class more regularly, for example, are 20% more likely to graduate from high school. High school graduates typically earn $10,090 more per year and enjoy a 4% higher employment rate.
You can see the ripple effect. These factors can create transformative, positive change in America, since a student who eats school breakfast is put on a path to do better in school, leading to greater self-sufficiency after high school and, therefore, become less likely to struggle with hunger during their lifetime.
Educators like you are on the frontlines of fighting hunger and see kids struggling often. One elementary school teacher in Maryland commented, “One of my students this year came up to me during a test and said she was having trouble. When I asked her which question she needed help with, she answered, “I don’t need help with the questions. I need help because I’m hungry and I can’t think.”
You can take action—here are three things you can do:
- Add Your Community to The National School Breakfast Map: We’re building a map that paints an unprecedented view of school breakfast programs across the country. Get more impact information and add your community at NoKidHungry.org/Breakfast.
- Join Team No Kid Hungry: You can help surround kids with healthy food where they live, learn and play. Pledge to make No Kid Hungry a reality at NoKidHungry.org.
- Learn What Is Working on School Breakfast: The No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices offers a wide variety of information about the school breakfast program and how participation is being increased across the country. Learn more at BestPractices.NoKidHungry.org.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Sesame Street’s Big Bird teamed up to film two public service announcements encouraging kids to eat healthy and get active. The new PSAs, which can be viewed HERE and HERE, are launched as part of the third anniversary celebration of Let’s Move! These PSAs are part of the celebration of Let’s Move!’s third anniversary.
More information on three years of healthy changes can be found here: http://www.letsmove.gov/blog/2013/02/08/lets-move-three-years-working-towards-healthier-generation-children
"Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," that’s the March National Nutrition Month 2013 theme. In celebration of the observance we’d like to share three ways you can work to promote good nutrition at your school by increasing access to school breakfast, ensuring all food sold in school is healthy, and encouraging nutrition education and physical activity at school.
(1) Increase access to school breakfast. Research confirms that eating breakfast at school helps children learn. When students are hungry, they struggle academically and are at risk for long-term health issues. In the U.S., 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Below are important resources for teachers, principals and administrators, and parents to increase access to school breakfast and positively impact hunger.
- Teachers: The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) hears from educators who are on the front lines of hunger. We created the “Start School with Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation” in partnership with Share Our Strength to promote alternative breakfast service models, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab n’ go and 2nd chance breakfast. Within the Guide is information about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts.
- Principals and Administrators: The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESPF) has a number of resources for principals implementing breakfast in the classroom programs and for principals interested in getting breakfast in the classroom started in their schools. Also, the American Association of School Administrators’ (AASA) newest publication, School Governance & Leadership, focuses on engaging Superintendents to promote alternative school breakfast programs.
- Parents: Take action in your community and advocate for the health and wellbeing of all children. The National PTA’s “Advocacy Toolkit” is a great resource that provides step-by-step directions to help you reach out to policy makers. Contact your local representative and tell them to protect and expand funding for the School Breakfast Program and other Federal food assistance programs.
(2) Ensure all food in school is healthy. Studies show that the top sources of calories for school-age children and teens are pizza, sugary desserts like cakes and cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks. Sadly, this type of unhealthy fare is widely available in U.S. schools.
During the 2009-10 school year, 76% of high school students, 63% of middle school students, and 47% of elementary school students could buy unhealthy snack foods at school. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, and high-calorie fruit drinks, were also common.
At the same time, research shows that restricting sales of unhealthy snacks and beverages in schools can improve children's diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
That’s why NEA HIN launched www.BagtheJunk.org, a new website that aims to educate, mobilize, and empower members of the school community to replace junk snack foods and sugary drinks with healthier options. The site features advocacy tools such as organizing tips, policy briefs, fact sheets, and sample letters along with current news, trends, and thoughts from experts in the field. Through guest blogs the site will also highlight projects from fellow LFA members, such as the American Association for School Administrators School Administrators for HEALing of Our Children and Youth project.
(3) Encourage nutrition education and physical activity. Today, nearly 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. With childhood obesity at epidemic proportions, building good nutrition habits and physical activity skills must be a part of a well-rounded student education.
To help address this need, NEA HIN created Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. These lesson plans are standards-based and provide classroom based resources designed to teach healthy eating, exercise, and a strong mind, all of which will help students develop healthy lifestyles.
We’re especially proud that all the lessons in Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives were pilot-tested by real teachers in real classrooms.
Another helpful resource is the National Association of State Boards of Education’s (NASBE) Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn series of school health policy guides, including the recently released Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Policies to Promote Physical Activity and Physical Education chapters.
Good health habits are something to celebrate throughout the year. We hope you will join us—and thousands of educators nationwide—to promote good nutrition at your school! Post on NEA HIN’s Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #schoolfoodsrule and let us know what you plan to do for National Nutrition Month.
Say Valentine’s Day and most of us think of chocolate, candy, and roses. Valentine’s Day parties at schools often come with lots of sugar and candy. This year, we offer some ideas for doing something different.
Setting out to write this I realized that when I am looking for gift and food ideas outside of work, the place I often start is Pinterest, which pulls together visually appealing links from across the internet. So why not start there for Valentine’s Day ideas, and my first stop is the Healthy Eating Pinterest board maintained by NEA HIN's Bag the Junk. Whether you are planning something special for an adult or a child, we have ideas for treats that tastes good, look good, and are healthy
I haven’t decided what I will make at home, but here are a few of the things I am thinking of, each with four ingredients or less.
- Frozen banana chocolate “ice cream.” What a great way to get one of the recommended serving of fruit. Made with frozen banana, cocoa, and peanut butter this is a quick treat. (But make sure that you know about food allergies, peanuts are a common allergen)
- Angel cake and red fruit kabobs. Using a bamboo skewer, alternate cubes of angel cake with red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, or grapes.
- “Jell-O” jiggler hearts made with gelatin and fruit juice. Use a cookie cutter after the gelatin has set.
Do you have a favorite healthy holiday treat? Share with us on Facebook.
Chew on this: studies show that the top sources of calories for school-age children and teens are pizza, sugary desserts like cakes and cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks. Add to it that kids regularly consume 30-50 percent of their daily calories at school, and it’s more important than ever for schools to promote healthy options. That’s why I’m so excited that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officially released the Smart Snacks in School Proposed Rule on February 8.
As required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the “Smart Snacks” rule proposes national nutrition standards for all foods and drinks sold in school vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack bars, and fundraisers during the school day. The proposed standards call for schools to offer more whole grain, low-fat dairy, fruit, or vegetable snacks, among other positive changes (for more details, check out the USDA's Smart Snacks in School Rule: What You Need to Know webinar on February 14 at 1 pm EST).
National nutrition standards are sorely needed. During the 2009-10 school year, 76% of high school students, 63% of middle school students, and 47% of elementary school students could buy unhealthy snack foods at school. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, and high-calorie fruit drinks, were also common. At the same time, research shows that restricting sales of unhealthy snacks and beverages in schools can improve children’s diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
I applaud the USDA for taking a huge step for healthy kids. As this is a proposed rule, the nutrition standards are open for public comment until April 9, 2013. NEA HIN is in the process of writing comments on the proposed regulations; in the next few weeks, we will post excerpts that readers can use in their own comments to the USDA (stay tuned!).
In addition to providing comments on the rule, members of the school community can work locally to ensure that schools have healthy options available before, during, and after the school day. Our new website, BagtheJunk.org, is the perfect tool to help you take action. The site aims to educate, mobilize, and empower members of the school community to replace junk snack foods and sugary drinks with healthier options. It features advocacy tools such as organizing tips, policy briefs, fact sheets, and sample letters along with other information that will be updated frequently to reflect current news, trends, and thoughts from experts in the field.
And once you’ve started making changes at your school be sure to visit the Bag the Junk “Share” page to tell us your story, and we’ll feature it on the site!
As parents, we want to feed our children the healthiest meals possible, and many of us are trying to do that on limited budgets. Yet when we enter the supermarket, , we are confronted with an array of products. While we know that some are not good choices, we may be confused about what the best choice is.
On Saturday, January 19, I attended a demonstration of the Shopping Matters experience as part of the National Day of Service that preceded the inauguration of President Obama. Hundreds of people came through the Shopping Matters experience on the National Mall to find out more about making healthy, budget-minded choices.
Here are the three of the most important things I learned.
- Compare the unit pricing. For example, you may have two bags of brown rice. One may cost 4 cents per ounce and another smaller bag may cost 8 cents per ounce. Even though the smaller bag is “cheaper.” the unit cost is more, and you are not getting the best deal.
- Read the label. The nutrition label tells you not only the ingredients, but also how a serving fits into your daily nutritional needs. Ingredients are listed in order of occurrence in the package. The label also tells you how big each serving is. For example, a can of beans may be 3.5 servings
- Look for whole grain. Whole grain foods offer more nutrition than processed grains.
The great thing about Shopping Matters is that you don’t have to go to the National Mall to experience it. Organizations around the country host Shopping Matters tours as part of their anti-hunger work. NEA HIN is proud to partner with Share Our Strength in getting this information out. Coming soon, Share our Strength will launch a web portal where you can sign up to be trained to lead Shopping Matters tours or to find out about tours in your area.
Share you healthy food tips on NEA HIN’s Facebook page.
With childhood obesity rates now at epidemic levels, ensuring that kids have access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity at school is more critical than ever. Long-time partners such as the NEA Health Information Network play an important role in making it happen. And Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school wellness program that NEA members and other educators can use.
Founded by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with USDA, Fuel Up to Play 60 is now in nearly 73,000 schools nationwide, empowering students to take charge in making small, everyday changes for their own health. The kids participate in fun Challenges, track their own healthy eating and physical activity, and help implement and complete “Plays” from a football-inspired Playbook.
But students can’t do it alone. More than 26,000 adults – PE teachers, classroom educators, school nutrition directors, school nurses, administrators and others – currently lead Fuel Up to Play 60 in their schools, playing the role of the Program Advisor, the in-school “coach” or adult leader of the Fuel Up to Play 60 team. And, their involvement makes all the difference.
According to a survey of more than 11,000 program participants for the 2011-2012 school year, school engagement and student awareness and involvement significantly increase with the presence of a Program Advisor – particularly when two or more adults are working with kids in a leadership capacity.
For schools with an already engaged wellness team, that kind of involvement is often there from the start. Kathy Todd, the PE teacher and Fuel Up to Play 60 Program Advisor at Shannon Johnson Elementary in Berea, Kentucky, said she had “total support” at both the district and the school level when she began implementing Fuel Up to Play 60 during the 2011-2012 school year. The wellness team worked together to coordinate numerous activities, such as integrating a “Grow Your Own” garden program into the curriculum, holding a “Family Fitness Night” for parents and students, and starting a successful “Healthy Celebration” program to spread the word about how to make school parties healthier.
At other schools, however, it sometimes takes a passionate Program Advisor to get others on board. Jessie Coffey, nutrition specialist for Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska, knew she had to get the buy-in of administrators, custodians – and especially educators – when using Fuel Up to Play 60 to implement Grab-n-Go Breakfast at Lincoln High School, where 61 percent of students qualify for free and reduced meals.
“It’s going to be messy and there are going to be challenges, but teachers need to see that the challenges are not as great the value it has for students,” Coffey said. “I did a little education at the beginning about breakfast in the classroom and shared supporting data about how it can decrease behavioral issues and trips to nurse. Then they said, ‘Oh, yeah, this makes sense.’”
Once educators and staff were excited about the program, the kids fed off their enthusiasm. Students used social media to advertise the breakfast pick-up locations and daily options, and promoted breakfast and the importance of physical activity by posting signs and organizing a flash mob.
Coffey said the involvement of both adults and students has been instrumental in making the program successful – and, equally important – sustainable.
Are you passionate about helping students learn to eat healthy and move more? Please consider joining the ranks of Fuel Up to Play 60 champions as a catalyst for change in your school. Visit FuelUpToPlay60.com to get started today, or tune in to a free Action for Healthy Kids webinar to learn more about the program basics, what it means to be a Program Advisor, and how to apply for a competitive grant of up to $4,000 per school to implement Fuel Up to Play 60 at your school.
Amy Moyer is Director of Field Operations for Action for Healthy Kids, the nation’s leading nonprofit and volunteer network fighting childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives. Moyer provides direction, leadership and management over the organization’s school and volunteer programs. Contact us to learn more about the program.
As I reflect on 2012, I am amazed by how NEA members, working with our NEA HIN partners, have taken remarkable action to improve the health and safety of students and educators. Here are just a few of this year’s accomplishments:
- NEA members helped thousands of students from being hungry. More than 1,000 NEA members—teachers and ESP—participated in the NEA HIN co-sponsored Breakfast in the Classroom program in eight states, helping feed more than 41,000 hungry students in high-need schools. These are students who otherwise would not have breakfast that morning.
- With guidance from NEA members and allergy experts, NEA HIN worked with the USDA to produce the (first-ever) booklet on food allergies. This booklet identifies the role that every member of the school community plays in keeping kids safe. This information can be life-saving, and it is now online and available to every one of the nearly 99,000 public schools in nation.
- Recognizing the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, NEA affiliates and members sent thousands of dollars in donations to the NEA HIN Disaster Relief Fund. Donations continue to come in and will provide needed supports to NEA members and their school communities. If you wish to donate, please make your tax-exempt contribution here.
- Over 1,300 NEA members and other educators across the country took NEA HIN training to advance health and safety in their schools. Topics covered school safety, food allergies in schools, healthy eating, managing stress, and implementing breakfast in the classroom.
This year, NEA HIN also completed an analysis of our previous year’s work to improve indoor environmental quality. We learned that NEA members who took NEA HIN training had used NEA HIN materials to train their colleagues. Their actions more than doubled our original reach, and today 5,000 NEA members are informed and are taking action for healthier schools.
While there is much more to do, we are grateful for every one of the NEA HIN partners who helped in this work—and especially for the thousands of NEA members who acted to help students succeed and fellow educators thrive.
In this season of gift-giving, NEA HIN appreciates the greatest gift: the caring, dedication, and professionalism of NEA members.
This year, for the first time in many years, we are hosting the family at our house for the holidays. This has me thinking about how to help children and adults stay healthy and not too stressed through the holidays.
So here are my tips for enjoying the upcoming holidays (these also work for any holiday that has food at its center).
- Start by making sure to get some activity in your day. Whether you are a casual stroller or a high intensity runner, make sure that even the busiest of days has some time built in to be active. This can be a great time to dust off that Wii tennis game or to plan a family flag football game. Join your children in something fun and physical.
- Drink lots of water. It fills you up and has the added benefit of keeping your skin moist.
- Keep healthy snacks around. I love vegetables and even in the winter find that if I can snack on raw broccoli or pepper strips I can get some of the “crunch” factor of chips etc.
- Don't forget the lean protein. Protein can help to fill you up.
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy products such as skim milk or non-fat yogurt offer the added benefit of calcium for strong bones.
- Ask yourself if you really want something. Holiday buffets are particularly dangerous because there is so much choice. Monitor what children select and insist that they have fruits or vegetables.
- Make it and serve it yourself. You can control the ingredients and the portion size. Help children understand how a 4 ounce portion looks different when compared to an 8 ounce portion.
- Ask is this hunger or boredom (or stress, or anxiety)? If it is hunger, what's the best choice you can make? If it isn't, what else can you do?
- Enjoy what you eat. Slow down your chewing and savor the tastes.
- Reflect on the things you and your family have to be thankful for. This has been a hard year for many of us, so taking time to think about what we have can help to take the edge off that stressful moment.
Please let us know on Facebookk what works for you.
November is American Diabetes Month. As we enter a holiday season of family—and—calories it's good to remember the steps to take to be healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 of every 3 U.S. adults had prediabetes in 2010. That is 79 million Americans aged 20 years or older. Most people who have prediabetes do not know they have it and this puts them at even greater risk.
Prediabetes means that blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as related conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Some of the side effects of type 2 diabetes include kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage.
- Some people are at greater risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. These include people who are
- Over the age of 45
- Have/had a parent with type 2 diabetes
- Have/had a sibling with type 2 diabetes
- Are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Had diabetes when pregnant or had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
- Are physically active less than three times a week
Only your health care provider can tell you if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but there are important things all of us can do to reduce our risk.
- If you are overweight, work on losing that weight.
- Be physically active. Walk more, take the stairs when you can, join an exercise class, or see what your local community center or YMCA has to offer.
- Give up the sugary drinks. Replace that cola with water.
- Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for information on making healthy food choices and on portion size
- Talk to your health care provider and your insurance company about prevention resources that are available. Some insurance companies offer access to nutritionists or will cover the costs of programs such as Weight Watchers.
- Check out free resources. The American Diabetes Association has lots of good resources to help you.
For more information you can also visit NEA HIN’s diabetes pages.
Tough economic times often mean shrinking budgets for extracurricular school activities, leading many schools to turn to selling junk foods and beverages to raise money (e.g. vending machines, cookie sales, fast food sandwiches at lunchtime, etc). But what is the real cost of these seemingly harmless money-makers?
Over the past thirty years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled. And today, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are either obese or overweight. If this trend continues, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation.
What is causing the drastic rise in childhood obesity in the United States? One reason is the fact that kids are eating more unhealthy processed food like chips and candy and drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks and sports drinks. Selling junk foods and beverages in schools is also in direct opposition to school health curriculum. Think about it, what does it say to a student who learns about healthy eating during class, then heads over to the hallway vending machine, only to see if stocked with fatty, salty foods and sugary beverages?
And all this junk isn’t just affecting kids’ waistlines. Numerous studies show there is a strong connection between the quality of a child’s diet and their academic performance and achievement. Given the connection between poor diet, student health, and academic success, doesn’t it make sense that schools should get out of the junk food business?
School vending and food-based fundraising are easy ways raise money, and school administrators may worry that stocking healthier options will turn off students and result in less revenue for school programs. But, research and success stories are showing that switching to healthier snack and beverage offerings doesn’t have to mean less revenue.
Our new publication summarizes the research, including the following findings:
- Selling healthier snack foods does not necessarily result in revenue loss
- Selling healthier snacks and beverages often leads to greater participation in the National School Lunch Program
- In some cases, revenue from the sale of snack foods and beverages increases after switching to healthier options.
Interested in making changes at your school? NEA HIN also has a policy brief to help states and school districts create stronger, more comprehensive policies for snack foods and beverages Bag the Junk: Improving Competitive Food Policy to Create Healthier, Smarter School Environments, which is available for free.
We also invite you to check out examples of schools and school districts that have removed junk foods and beverages and not lost revenue:
This week I read a great article about addressing the US childhood obesity epidemic. In the article, author Len Saunders states: “we need to understand that there is not one magical formula to fix every single overweight child, since gaining weight can be environmental, emotional, physical, or inheritable.”
I couldn’t agree more. Scores of research and best practice stories show us that a multi-pronged approach that involves collaboration from multiple sectors –schools, parents, health care providers, community leaders, kids and all levels of government, is the only way we’re going to make headway on ending childhood obesity.
In the spirit of collaboration, NEA HIN continually strives to work with local, state, and national partners to create healthy and safe school environments for kids and adults. One example is our “Competitive Foods Project”, in which we are working with NEA state affiliates and members to advocate for strong state nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages that are sold in school vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores and fundraisers. To learn about how you can make changes in your school, download our “Bag the Junk” policy brief. For more information about our project, visit: http://www.neahin.org/bagthejunk/
It’s that time of year again and the school Halloween Party is just around the corner. Not to mention that with Halloween on a Wednesday many kids will be going from school party to neighborhood trick or treat.
But we all know that too much candy and junk food are not good for kids. Here are some ideas for rethinking Halloween treats in school and at home.
Yummy things to eat and drink
- Eat your Halloween colors. Some orange choices are: carrots, orange slices, dried apricots, canned peaches or apricots (packed in water), and cheddar cheese. For black, think about raisins, blackberries, and dark purple seedless grapes
- Cook up a spider…spider bread that is. Take a loaf of frozen bread dough, thaw and shape into a spider. Use raisins for eyes and bake according to directions. Serve with butter, margarine, or cheese.
- How many ways can you server pumpkin? Here are some ideas: pumpkin muffins or cookies, roasted pumpkin seeds, or pumpkin dip with graham crackers.
- Say moo, not boo. Milk is a healthy alternative to soda. For the adventurous, color the milk orange with food coloring. Water or apple cider are also good drink choices
- Cookies don't have to be out altogether. Oatmeal raisin cookies have lots of fiber and fruit. Another idea is to have each child decorate a single sugar cookie in a Halloween shape such as a witch or bat. Frosting can be dyed with food coloring for added fun.
- Halloween Walk-About. A musical chairs type game but without the running and pushing. Cut out pumpkins, witches, ghosts, brooms, scarecrows, and other Halloween symbols. You'll need 1 item per child. If you run out of ideas put 2 pumpkins together, 2 witches etc... Place the cut outs in a circle on the floor or around the room. While playing Halloween music, have the children walk around stepping/standing beside or on the things you cut out. At a random intervals, stop the music and everyone freezes by the item next to them. There should only be one child at an item. Then from a hat or jar draw out the name of one of the cut outs, like 2 pumpkins or 1 witch, then the person standing next to the 2 pumpkins would be out of the game. That child then chooses an activity such as touching toes, jumping jacks that the group will do before the music starts again.
- Ghosts in the Air: Place children in groups of six to eight. Each group gets a ghost (a white balloon). The group must pass the balloon to each other, with the goal being to keep the balloon in the air.
- Halloween Story Hike-Think up a “scary story” that involves an activity such as walking, climbing, swimming etc. Tell the story and have children act out the actions.
- Bone Hunt. If space permits, hid small plastic bones around the classroom or outside. Children hunt for and collect bones.
- Have a Halloween dance party that keeps kids up and moving
Trick or treat bag goodies
If you or parents want to provide treats, here are some candy alternatives that won't bust the budget.
- Pencils and erasers (especially Halloween themed)
- Small bags of pretzels, raisins, or other healthy treats
- Bouncy balls, markers, or stickers
- 100% fruit leathers
And if you want to give out candy, give out one small “fun-size” per child. Remember they are getting lots of goodies. Other good choices are small lollipops or small packages of jelly beans. You can find a list of union made candies here.
However you decide to celebrate the holiday at school, make sure you know and follow your school's policies. You should also be aware of any students who have a food allergy.
For more healthy Halloween party ideas.
I grew up in a different world….a world where all of our food was grown, processed, and eaten on our farm. We planted a quarter-acre garden that produced food from May until October and we raised our own beef, pork and chicken, too. The approach of Food Day reminds me of my relationship to food and how it was formed.
Farming was hard work, but this work came with great rewards. The farm on which I was born was a working dairy requiring major labor from my father, my brothers and me for two hours every morning and evening. Summer work added in the planting and harvesting of crops to feed our dairy and beef cattle and hogs. The remainder of the day was spent assisting my Mom with planting, picking and processing vegetables. My mom, with assistance from several aunts, would can and freeze hundreds and hundreds of quarts of vegetables….lasting our family of eight through the winter until the next summer’s garden produce arrived.
Working so hard for our food meant hyper-fresh food and also that nothing was to go to waste. We daily drank two gallons of milk from the dairy. The cream, skimmed from the top of each gallon, was used in coffee, on fresh pies, in making fresh-churned ice cream weekly, and for cooking.
Lunch and dinner came straight from the garden: fresh peas, beans, corn, asparagus, potatoes, onions, often picked just minutes before cooking (my father did not like to eat corn that was more than 30 minutes from the stalk). I can still taste tomatoes warm from the mid-day sun and corn so fresh that the kernels melted in your mouth.
Our house was on four-acres of the 300 acre farm. These four acres also housed my grandfather’s fruit orchard. Fresh apples, pears and peaches were routinely picked from this area and were included in our daily diet. We also had a mill on the farm that we used to grind corn and wheat into feed for the dairy cows and hogs and fresh flour for home use. EVERY meal included fresh biscuits, fresh rolls or fresh loaf bread using this flour.
These early food experiences formed my present daily habits for cooking and food consumption. I have never purchased frozen vegetables, or a store-made cake or pie. I include a fresh salad in my daily diet. I often make breads from scratch, and I always try to eat foods that are the least processed and as close to the earth as possible. Just last weekend, I made fresh churned ice cream for 20 guests: one gallon of fresh peach and one gallon of chocolate. It was pretty darned good, too!
I don’t know if these food habits will increase my life span….but they certainly increase my daily nutrition and enjoyment of food. My hope is that all Americans, regardless of where they grew up, can enjoy a healthy relationship with food by learning where their food comes from and how it’s grown. That’s why I am thrilled that NEA Health Information Network is participating in Food Day 2012 by hosting an event at the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, DC. Hopefully this event helps NEA staff and neighboring office workers experience a small taste of what it’s like to eat straight from the farm.
We’re presenting about health and safety issues at several conferences this week. Details about where and when are below, please stop by and see us if you’re in town for the conferences! You can also follow NEA HIN through our Facebook and Twitter account.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Putting Locally Grown Food within a Hand’s Reach of Every Student
NEA HIN’s Lisa Sharma Creighton will be speaking about how to improve school nutrition through Farm to School, school gardens and nutrition standards.
Massachusetts Teachers Association ESP Professional Development Workshop (Sturbridge, MA)
- Friday, October 12, 2012
The Whole Child: Three Critical Issues in Student Health
NEA HIN’s Lisa Sharma Creighton will be speaking about using state policy to address childhood obesity in schools.
National Association of State Boards of Education Annual Conference (Chicago, IL)
A Roundtable on Health Indicators in Education Accountability
NEA HIN’s Nora Howley will be speaking along with Bonnie Edmondson (Connecticut Department of Education) and Alexandra Schaible (Healthy Schools Campaign) to discuss how to include health indicators into education accountability systems.
American School Health Association Conference (San Antonio, TX)
- Saturday, October 13, 2012
Creating Health Curriculum Linked to the Common Core
NEA HIN’s Nora Howley will be speaking along with Miecha Galbraith to discuss the alignment of health education with the Common Core Standards.
American School Health Association Conference (San Antonio, TX)
Engaging Multiple Stakeholders and Successfully Implementing Universal Breakfast in the Classroom
NEA HIN’s Annelise Cohon will be speaking about the many benefits of universal breakfast in the classroom and how to engage a range of stakeholders in increasing student breakfast participation at school.
American School Health Association Conference (San Antonio, TX)
We all know that childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Just walking by any playground in the country, you can see that, on the whole, children are at a heavier weight than they were just a generation ago. Decades of increasing portion sizes, cuts in PE classes or after-school sports programs, and thousands of other factors have taken their toll and left us and our kids in the throes of a full-fledged epidemic. One in three kids is overweight or obese and, consequently, at risk for serious health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, just to name a couple. And those are just two of the implications of childhood obesity. We also know that children who eat poorly or don’t get enough exercise face mental health issues and don’t do as well as they could in school. The situation is downright alarming!
A generation ago such conditions would have been unimaginable. Today they must be unacceptable.
This month, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, you’re probably hearing and reading a lot about the crisis – and, hopefully, about some of the successes realized by families, schools and communities that make our children’s health a priority. I’m grateful for that. But I’m also asking you to pay attention to this problem beyond September.
Together, We Can Keep Kids Healthy
Childhood obesity is an issue my organization – Action for Healthy Kids – has focused on year-round since our founding a decade ago because it’s just that serious. Through our school-based programs and grants, we strive to make school environments healthier so that kids can be healthier. In fact, our thousands of volunteers around the country take physical activity and nutrition lessons and changes directly to children - in their classrooms, in their schools’ cafeterias and on their schools’ playgrounds so that they can eat nutritiously and play every day. Those efforts are inspirational and making a difference. But they’re not yet enough.
As CEO of Action for Healthy Kids and the father of three young children (7, 5 and 2 years old), I’m on a mission to make sure people from every walk of life know they have a part to play in ending the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic, whether they have children or not. That’s why I’m encouraging teachers, bus drivers, school custodians, cafeteria workers, school administrators, moms and dads, and caring community members alike to take just 10 seconds to sign their names to our Every Kid Healthy Pledge , which is not only shining a spotlight on the issue of childhood obesity, but also showing people – like you - ways, big and small, that you can help us fight this epidemic.
You can get involved by attending an Action for Healthy Kids event (conference or webinar) or by becoming a volunteer, whatever works for you. The bottom line is, with everyone pulling together, we can give kids the keys to health and academic success, one school, and if necessary one child, at a time. And, we can start with one simple “action for healthy kids” at a time.
Rob Bisceglie was appointed CEO of Action for Healthy Kids in January 2008, bringing fifteen years of diverse non-profit experience in management, operations, development, and strategic and operational planning.
About Action for Healthy Kids
Action for Healthy Kids® is the nation’s leading nonprofit and largest volunteer network fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment by helping schools become healthier places so our kids can learn to eat right, are active every day and are ready to learn. Nationwide, the school-based, grassroots efforts of our 30,000+ volunteers are supported by a collaboration of more than 70 organizations, corporations and government agencies.
For more information, contact Rob here.
As expected, the New York Board of Health passed a rule banning sugary drinks like soda in sizes 16 oz. or larger at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries in an effort to combat obesity today. NYC Mayor Bloomberg has been tweeting info graphics (here and here) about reducing portion size and what they want to accomplish with the ban.
Whether you agree with the plan or not, this is a great time to evaluate your own eating habits. CDC’s Healthy Eating Page is full of helpful information.
A few of their tips really hit home for me. Here are 5 tips to improve your healthy eating habits.
- Create a list of your eating habits and highlight the habits on your list that may be leading you to overeat. Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain are:
- Eating too fast
- Always cleaning your plate
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
- Always eating dessert
- Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)
This September marks the second annual observance of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and I’m happy to report that we are finally seeing the efforts of cities and states pay off in the form of declining childhood obesity rates!
A new issue brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlights the efforts of two states (California, Mississippi) and two cities (Philadelphia, New York) that are taking comprehensive actions to address childhood obesity AND showing promising progress.
What sets these places apart is their use of multi-pronged strategies to address obesity, including requiring restaurant menu labeling and nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold in schools, getting more fresh produce into underserved neighborhoods, and promoting physical activity and active design of community spaces and buildings, among other tactics. All these efforts come together to form far-reaching changes in schools and communities which, according to recent data, can reduce childhood obesity:
|Place||Ages||Time 1 (T1)||Obesity Rates at T1||Time 2 (T2)||Obesity Rates at T2||Percent Decline|
|Philadelphia||K-12||2006-07 school year||21.5%||2009-10 school year||20.5%||-4.7%|
|New York City||K-8||2006-07 school year||21.9%||2009-10 school year||20.7%||-5.5%|
|Mississippi||K-5||Spring 2005||43.0%†||Spring 2011||37.3%†||-13.3%|
|California||Grades 5, 7, 9||2005||38.44%†||2010||38.0%†||-1.1%|
†Combined rates of overweight and obesity
The results are exciting and promising, but there’s still a lot of work to do to get obesity rates down across the country. Interested in doing your part? Check out NEA HIN’s childhood obesity page to learn about ways to make change in your community and school. Also check out tips from Let’s Move, an initiative started by First Lady Michelle Obama that is dedicated to solving childhood obesity within a generation.
One more thing! Be sure to follow @NEAHIN on Twitter –we’re posting healthy tips and facts every weekday in September to honor Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
One of the best things about my career is that it’s a great way to start a debate. When I’m chatting with strangers at a dinner party, happy hour, or other social setting, if somebody asks what I do for a living, my response (“I study laws targeting childhood obesity”) usually elicits more than a token “Oh that’s nice” response. For better or worse, government policies related to obesity are a topic that everybody – liberal, conservative, or independent – has an opinion on.
Nobody gets more fired up than educators. Much of my research focuses specifically on laws related to school nutrition standards, and when I’m discussing my career with someone who has worked in public schools, they frequently get upset as they talk about how unhealthy foods in schools can be. Soda, candy bars, high-fat chips, etc. – that’s what they see their students buying at school every day, educators tell me. It’s hardly a surprise to them that nearly one-fifth of adolescents in the U.S. are obese.
Many states and school districts have recognized this problem and passed policies to require nutrition standards for foods and beverages that are sold outside of federal school meal programs, so-called ‘competitive foods’. California, for example, has banned soda and set very specific limits on the fat, sugar, and calorie content of competitive foods sold in vending machines and other school venues. Skeptics have questioned the impact of these laws, however, by arguing that students can easily compensate for laws. (“No soda machine? Fine, I’ll go to the convenience store down the road.”) Even I was skeptical of competitive food laws for awhile because I thought it was too easy for kids to get junk food elsewhere.
So I was excited when my colleagues and I found that strong competitive food laws can, in fact, reduce weight gain among children. We studied 6,300 students in 40 states, analyzing their changes in body mass index (BMI) between 5th and 8th grade, to determine if BMI change was lower in states with stronger competitive food laws. We found that students experienced less BMI change if they lived in states with competitive food laws containing specific, required nutrition standards. Furthermore, students who were obese or overweight in 5th grade were more likely to achieve a healthier weight status by 8th grade if they lived in states with specific and required standards for competitive foods.
Laws also needed to be consistent over time and across grade levels. That is, no matter how strong standards were when students were in 5th grade, if the standards were not reinforced as students progressed to 8th grade, the students experienced the same BMI change compared to students in states with no laws at all. BMI change was lowest in states with competitive food laws that were specific, required, and consistent. Consistency is critical because some states have primarily targeted competitive foods in elementary schools while keeping standards relatively lax for middle and high schools. Our evidence suggests that this approach is not likely to reduce obesity.
Our study appeared in hundreds of media outlets when it was released last week, including the New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, and NPR. I was flooded with calls and emails from journalists, researchers, and policymakers in the U.S. and abroad. But my favorite email was from a mother in Arizona. She wrote that she appreciated us studying these issues because it would help her convince policymakers that change is needed in schools. Some critics say that preventing obesity is not the government’s business because it should be “left up to the parents,” and this parent was taking action to prevent obesity by trying to convince the government that they needed to make school foods healthier.
Ironically, the need for school nutrition reform is a rare topic that liberals and conservatives can agree upon. One fact that surprises many people is that states with strong competitive food laws are often in the South, including states that are politically conservative; one of the earliest, most progressive efforts to improve school nutrition at the state level came in Arkansas when Mike Huckabee was Governor. Arkansas leaders recognized that childhood obesity was a public health crisis and that reducing obesity was going to require involvement from everyone, including schools.
As Lisa Creighton wrote 3 weeks ago, the USDA is in the process of developing national competitive food nutrition standards as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. These standards have not been released yet, however, and they may not equal the standards set by states such as Arkansas and California. Therefore, it’s important to continue to work with state and local policymakers to develop tougher nutrition standards at all grade levels. If you are interested in knowing how strong the laws are in your state, visit the National Cancer Institute website: “Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (CLASS)”. It includes state profiles of school nutrition and physical education laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Remember, too, that competitive food laws are just one way that schools can help reduce obesity by improving students’ diet or increasing their physical activity. Other examples include:
• Farm to School programs
• Safe Routes to School
• Increasing opportunities for students to be physically active during the school day
• Providing healthier school meals
• Selling low-fat, low-sugar snacks at school fundraisers
The goal of these programs is not only for students to eat a few less calories or get a little more activity. It’s about creating a culture that revolves around healthy eating and active living. Personally, I think that reducing obesity will require that kind of cultural shift in how we live. Schools are a major part of students’ culture and need to be at the center of it.
Dr. Daniel Taber is a Research Scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy (IHRP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he specializes in studying the effects of school-based policies on diet, physical activity, and weight status among children.
Through my research on the shared use of school recreational programs and facilities, I have come to recognize something that I believe is very important.
Educators care. They care about their students. They care about the families of their students. They care about their community. And they care about the physical health and well-being of students, their families, and members of the community in which their schools reside.
I also know that educators can make a difference.
They make decisions about opening school playgrounds, fields, and courts to local families—after school hours, on weekends, and over the summer. They can also reach out to community groups to find new ways to share recreational facilities, so residents have a convenient, safe place to exercise and play. These are powerful actions that impact the health of an entire community.
There is research that supports this belief. Studies conducted in Honolulu, Boston, San Diego, Cincinnati and New Orleans found that children who had access to school recreational facilities outside of regular school hours were more likely to be active. In these communities, educators truly made a difference.
Tho opening school recreational facilities for public use has great potential to help residents of all ages be more active, many schools still don’t do it. School personnel often cite liability, staffing, maintenance, and cost issues as reasons for not allowing the community to use their facilities outside of normal school hours.
These are valid concerns but not without solutions.
There are many ways schools can protect themselves against liability and many opportunities to share costs for staffing or maintenance. Shared (or joint) use agreements, which are often struck between a school and a city or county can help protect schools and create cost-effective solutions for promoting activity.
A new brief from Active Living Research, Promoting Physical Activity through Shared Use of School and Community Recreational Resources, summarizes research on community access to school sport and recreation facilities outside of school hours. It also discusses studies that examine the shared use of school facilities and programs with other community groups or agencies. And provides information to help state and local decision makers and policy-makers address concerns they have about shared use.
Key findings and recommendations in the brief include the following:
- Children who have access to existing and renovated school recreational facilities outside of regular school hours are more likely to be active.
- Progress toward opening school facilities for recreational use outside of school hours is slow and some evidence suggests that lower-income communities are less likely than higher-income communities to offer shared use of school facilities.
- Surveys of school administrators in lower-income communities or communities of color cite issues such as liability, staffing, maintenance and cost as barriers to opening schools for recreational use outside of school hours.
- The Institute of Medicine recommends that local governments "collaborate with school districts and other organizations to establish joint use of facilities agreements allowing playing fields, playgrounds, and recreation centers to be used by community residents when schools are closed; and if necessary, adopt regulatory and legislative policies to address liability issues that might block implementation."
- Schools, community groups and local governments can enter into joint use agreements to address the perceived barriers to sharing recreational facilities and programs.
I encourage you to share your experiences—success stories and challenges—related to opening school recreational facilities to the public, or sharing programs or facilities with community groups or agencies. We have a lot to learn from each other.
Many of you may have heard about some big changes coming this Fall to the school lunch and breakfast programs. As a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated the nutrition standards for school meals for the first time in fifteen years! The result? In cafeterias nationwide, students will be served more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and meals will now have limits on calories, saturated fat and sodium (among other changes). (For ideas on how to use these meal changes as a teaching opportunity, check out NEA HIN’s Healthy Steps, Healthy Lives).
Something you may not know is that the HHFKA also requires the USDA to update nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages that are sold outside of the school meal program—so called “competitive foods” that are sold in vending machines, food courts, cafeteria à la carte lines, and snack bars in nearly all schools in the United States. The current federal nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages have been in place since 1979, and are weak enough to allow the sale of snack foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories, and beverages that are high in sugar and contain little, if any, nutritional value (i.e. soda, sports drinks, flavored water).
Recognizing the link between poor diet and rising rates of childhood obesity many states and school districts have created their own nutrition standards to limit unhealthy snack foods and beverages that go above and beyond the federal guidelines. However, in practice, many of these policies are inadequate or weakly enforced at the local level.
To help states and school districts create stronger, more comprehensive policies for snack foods and beverages, NEA HIN has created a policy brief, Bag the Junk: Improving Competitive Food Policy to Create Healthier, Smarter School Environments, which is available for free on our website. The brief provides background about “competitive foods,” an overview of the research on the issue, and policy recommendations for states and local school districts. I encourage you to check it out, and share it with your colleagues.
Some of you may be thinking: “why should I bother working on a policy for my state or school district, when the USDA is about come out with a new federal policy?” My answer to you is that while the new USDA guidelines will be an improvement over the current federal nutrition standards, they are expected to set only a minimum standard, leaving it up to individual states or school districts to create stronger policies that suit their specific needs. Therefore, states and school districts should feel free to start working now to set nutrition standards that create healthier school nutrition environments.
Want to learn more about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and how it affects the school nutrition environment? Check out the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project at http://www.healthyschoolfoodsnow.org.
Providing Standards-Based Health Education
New Resources from NEA HIN
Health Education gives students the content and the skills they need to make sound health decisions throughout their lives. With the release of two new publications, NEA HIN is helping classroom teachers to do just that.
Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives 2012
At a time when educating children about nutrition and physical activity is more important than ever, NEA HIN has partnered with Nestlé in the United States to provide free standards-based instructional materials that support educators’ ongoing efforts to teach students in grades K-3 about healthy living.
This is the second installment of Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives is tied to national curriculum standards including the Common Core State Standards and the National Health Education Standards. The Healthy Steps content is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA’s new generation food icon, MyPlate.
Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives is motivational and instructional. The materials motivates students to learn about - and try - healthy foods they may not be aware of. The content itself is integrated into curriculum, including language arts or math.
“Educators from coast to coast have praised Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives as an invaluable tool in their classrooms,” said NEA HIN Executive Director Jerald Newberry. “The program’s practical activities enable educators to integrate nutrition and physical activity lessons into many other subjects...” NEA HIN is pleased to work with Nestle in order to continue providing educators with these interactive and imaginative standards-based lessons aligned to federal nutrition guidelines.”
Rx For Understanding
Rx For Understanding is a resource designed to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs while supporting the proper use of these drugs.
Rx For Understanding provides standards-based teaching materials (lesson plans and accompanying resources) for use with students in grades 5-8 that are aligned to the National Health Education Standards and the Common Core State Standards.
“We know that 20 percent of high school students have reported that they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription,” said Jerald Newberry, NEA HIN Executive Director. “The lessons outlined in Rx For Understanding aim to equip students with the understanding and decision-making skills they need to recognize and avoid the dangers of misusing and abusing prescription drugs.
The resources include 10 cross-curricular lessons for teachers of middle school students. “NEA HIN welcomes our partnership with Purdue Pharma, L.P. to help teachers inform students about the risks in misusing prescription medication,” added Newberry.
Resources are available free of charge, in print, and online and were developed with the support of Purdue Pharma L.P.,
Since the beginning, NEA HIN has worked closely with partners in the public and private sectors to help create healthier, safer schools. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we are highlighting some of the partners who are joining us in the Hall of Health on June 30-July 2.
With more than one third of all children in the United States either overweight or obese, NEA HIN is proud to partner with Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a national nonprofit that fights childhood obesity, undernourishment, and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives. AFHK works with a legion of dedicated volunteers - teachers, students, moms, dads, school wellness experts and more - from within the ranks of a 34,000+ constituency to create healthful school changes. With an understanding that everyone has a part to play in ending the nation's childhood obesity epidemic, AFHK makes its programs, tools and resources available so that many people can.
Over the years, we’ve worked closely with AFHK to get its important information about childhood obesity and resources, such as the free ReCharge! Energizing After-School kit, to NEA members and their students and look forward to continuing that relationship in the years to come.
In fact, during the NEA Expo, AFHK will be in booth 405 in the Hall of Health, where NEA members can order ReCharge! Energizing After-School. Developed in collaboration between AFHK and the National Football League, the program takes a fun, team-based approach to teaching students in 2nd through 6th grades about good nutrition and physical activity habits by focusing on four core concepts: “Energy In” (nutrition); “Energy Out” (physical activity); Teamwork; and Goal-settings. ReCharge! also has an emphasis on healthy, after-school snacks and family outreach and can be used in after-school, physical education, recess and summer camp settings. (Shipping and handling for orders of free ReCharge! Energizing After-School kits - valued at $225 - made during the conference will be reduced from $40 to $20.) Be sure to visit and find out how AFHK and ReCharge! Energizing After-School can help you create a healthier school environment.
Physical education and physical activity in schools have been staples as long as there has been education. Children walked to school, played in the school yard, and physical education was included in a complete education. Even Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr that: “In order to progress well in your studies, you must take at least two hours a day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning.” The visionary Mr. Jefferson made many observations about exercise and its impact on learning and attention that today’s research is supporting.
Over the last 30 years, there has been a shift in thinking about whether physical education and physical activity have a place in school. Childhood obesity has been on the rise, and yet inclusion of physical education, physical activity, and recess in schools has been declining, with school leaders divided about the role of schools in supporting the health of our youth. With students spending a majority of their waking hours in school, it is evident that kids need opportunities during the school day to engage in physical activity for their good health, and also to support effective learning.
In 2008, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), an association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD), released a position statement defining Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP), encouraging schools to adopt as many of the components as possible in order to support healthy youth and improve educational outcomes. A CSPAP includes effective, quality physical education as its foundation, and includes physical activity before and after school, physical activity during school (such as recess and physical activity breaks), staff involvement, and family and community involvement in physical activity programs at the school.
Healthy children are better learners, and health staff members are more effective teachers. Creating a culture of physical activity at school is about synthesis, aligning programs in school toward the common goal of creating a healthier learning environment that transcends the school. Engineering this environment requires the collaboration of all educators and staff at the school, and requires a commitment to make every choice for youth the healthy choice. CSPAP programs are led by a variety of staff, with physical activity integrated into classrooms of all subjects, and all grade levels. The mindful commitment to create a vibrant school culture that supports wellness and physical activity is very achievable.
In Miami FL in 2006, Principal Charmyn Kirton had a vision to create such a school environment in which students would become physically fit, and the school would promote a culture of physical activity for all. Kirton and Dr. Jayne Greenberg, district director of physical education and health literacy for Miami-Dade Public Schools, developed a plan for a CSPAP for Norma Butler Bossard Elementary School, while the building was still in the planning stages. The new school was designed with activity in mind, and program elements were planned well in advance of the school’s completion. When the school opened, programs included daily physical education, physical activity breaks, recess, and a wide variety of physical activity opportunities throughout the school day. The intention to create a healthy environment for learning that encouraged healthy choices and unified messaging was intentional and required a team effort, with staff and students experiencing the benefits.
School districts do not need new buildings to provide a culture of physical activity in a school, but support at all levels is integral to success of the program. In 2010, AAHPERD launched a new initiative called Let’s Move in School, in order to provide support to schools in planning CSPAPs. A website with targeted resources provides information to superintendents and school boards, educators, and parents. Some vital planning steps include:
- Use of AAHPERD’s Let’s Move in School Superintendents and School Boards Toolkit to assess the state of current physical education and physical activity policy,
- Use of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s School Health Index to assess the status of programs at the school campus level,
- Develop a plan using toolkit guides.
Every stakeholder in a school district has a role in making great programs happen in schools. School boards have a responsibility to pass local school wellness policies ensuring that youth have an opportunity to receive a physical education, and opportunities throughout the day to become physically active. Superintendents are responsible for developing budgets that support quality education taught by highly-qualified educators for every subject area. Principals are responsible for supporting the scheduling of physical education classes, encouraging recess and physical activity breaks, and for promoting a culture of physical activity at a school. Many local education agencies implement comprehensive school physical activity programs by thinking creatively and examining use of time, resources and staffing available to the school, and develop focused plans for engaging all school stakeholders in keeping youth and staff active.
Educators are responsible for finding ways of implementing physical activity breaks throughout the school day so that students can take a break and return to academic classes with great attention. Parents and parent organizations have a responsibility to ask questions on behalf of their children, to ensure that schools are requiring physical education and providing time for physical activity during the school day. And the community as a whole needs to support all schools providing youth with the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills to be physically active for a lifetime.
Need more information? To view an AAHPERD Let’s Move in School Webinar on demand, go to: http://www.aahperd.org/letsmoveinschool/tools/webinars/archive.cfm to select a title that meets your needs. Does your school have a great CSPAP program? Tell us about it on NASPE’s Facebook page. For more information about CSPAP, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francesca Zavacky is a Senior Program Manager with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), recently serving as Project Director for a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has been a physical educator since 1976, and has received numerous teaching awards, including NASPE Teacher of the Year. Francesca has presented over 150 professional development sessions across the United States on topics as diverse as children’s fitness, incorporating brain research into physical education, interdisciplinary PE, student assessment, and grant writing for physical educators. She has served as an instructor for physical education workshops at The Pennsylvania State University, Longwood College, NASPE’s PIPEline Workshops, Howard University, and many state and local departments of education across the United States. Francesca is committed to improving professional practice and creating a culture of physical activity for youth across the country. You can reach her via email here.
A 2004 study found that soft drinks are the single largest contributor of calorie intake in the United States, which means that if you are like most Americans, you drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks pretty regularly. The bad news? If you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight, sugar-sweetened beverages could be thwarting your efforts.
A review of research on consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (such as full calorie soda, bottled iced teas and sports drinks) concluded that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with increased calorie intake, weight gain, diabetes, and obesity. For children in particular, each extra can or glass of sugar-sweetened beverage consumed per day increases their chance of becoming obese by 60%. And for adults, the news isn’t much better. Consuming just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day (about 100-200 extra calories) can add up to 25 pounds of weight gain in a year!
The easiest way to prevent this type of weight gain is to reduce the number of high calorie, low nutrient drinks (such as full-calorie soda and sports drinks) you drink each day. Many low-calorie, low-sugar substitutes exist, such as: flavored seltzer, plain seltzer with a splash of juice, green iced tea, or water mixed with mint or lemon. Need more motivation? Check out this great poster from the Alliance for a Healthier Vermont, which illustrates just how much sugar is in many popular drinks.
For more information about the policy and program efforts to reduce sugary drink consumption in the United States, follow @neahin on twitter as NEA HIN staffer Annelise Cohon tweets from the Sugary Drinks Summit in Washington, DC on June 7, 2012. The 2012 Sugary Drinks Summit is a national advocacy conference to motivate and strengthen national, state, and local initiatives to reduce sugary-drink consumption in the United States. During the event, people from a variety of organizations and geographical regions will gather to strategize to improve health by reversing the dramatic increase in sugary-drink consumption over the past decades. For more information about the Summit, visit: http://www.fewersugarydrinks.org/elements/pdf/summit_registration.pdf
Most people are probably not aware that 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is one of the top ten leading causes of death. This disease is completely preventable with changes in everyday lifestyle; diet, physical activity and weight maintenance.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recognizes March 27th as Diabetes Awareness Day. This year they are encouraging you to take the diabetes risk test. For each risk test that is taken, Boar’s Head® will donate $5 to the American Diabetes Association from March 27 through April 27, 2012.
If you are interested in getting involved with community events in your area visits the ADA website. For more information on how to prevent diabetes, click here. This year choose to do something different; help prevent diabetes and raise awareness!
Broccoli, You're Hired! is one of the fun standards-based activities that comprise Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. Designed for primary grades students, the activities in Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives, are organized around the themes Think Healthy Eat Healthy, and Move Healthy. The activities are aligned to the national standards in health, science, and social studies and to the Common Core in English/language arts and math.
Broccoli, Your Hired! is the ninth activity in the theme, Eat Healthy. Students learn how to classify foods in the key food groups (as designated by the US Dietary Guidelines) and identify the health benefits of each food groups. They do this by identifying the appropriate foods to respond to a "Help Wanted" advertisement.
The activity combines group discussion led by the teacher with reading aloud, decision making, and writing. The activity closes with students sharing their work and one new thing that they learned with the class.
Helping students learn how to make healthy food choices is an important part of reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity. Classroom instruction, such as that supported through Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives, is part of that effort. Please take a look at all the activities and tell us which one is your favorite. Do you have an activity you would like to share with other teachers? Let us know.
We’ve never needed safe play spaces in our communities more than we do now. Nearly a third of kids and adolescents in America – and two-thirds of adults – are overweight or obese. Many are urged to get more exercise but can’t follow this advice very easily where they live.
Schools, of course, have all kinds of exercise facilities – gyms, soccer fields, tracks, basketball courts, playgrounds, even swimming pools. But when school lets out, these spaces are often locked to students and the rest of the neighborhood.
Administrators have reasons for keeping these spaces closed after hours. They’re concerned about security. They’re afraid of getting sued if someone gets hurt. They can’t afford to pay for extra maintenance.
But communities around the country are resolving these issues through what’s known as a joint use agreement: a written contract between a school district and, usually, a city agency, spelling out a formal arrangement that lets the two share the costs and responsibilities of expanding access to school property.
- In Boston – where many schoolyards were paved over in the 1950s when city leaders realized it would save maintenance costs – joint use agreements have helped reclaim more than 130 acres of asphalt, transforming schoolyards into vibrant new spaces for play and learning.
- In Niagara Falls, NY, joint use agreements were essential in creating a state-of-the-art basketball park and incorporating valuable community programming, including a nationally recognized mentorship program for kids.
- In Mississippi – recently named the most obese state in the nation – a new statewide joint use program has provided school districts with resources for play equipment and other improvements while helping to ease school administrators reservations about liability and vandalism.
Although many communities informally agree to share facilities, a well-crafted joint use agreement can help things go smoothly – from coordinating scheduling and staffing to handling maintenance and the possibility of injury.
Check out Playing Smart, a nuts-and-bolts guide to opening school property to the public. Playing Smart was developed for school staff and other community leaders, whether they’re new to the prospect of joint use or looking to institutionalize an informal arrangement long under way.
Download this new toolkit today at www.unlockpossibilities.org.
Playing Smart was produced by KaBOOM! and the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Children Obesity, a project of Public Health Law & Policy.
Manel Kappagoda is the deputy director of the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a project of Public Health Law & Policy (PHLP). She oversees a team of staff attorneys and policy analysts providing support to communities nationwide on a range of policy strategies to promote healthy eating and active living. For more information on Playing Smart, you can contact her here.
Last week the NEA Health Information Network's Lisa Creighton represented NEA HIN at the 2012 NEA Education Support Professionals (ESP) Conference. I sat down with Lisa upon her return to find out more about her experience.
Lisa, tell us about the session you presented at the ESP Conference.
The session was called Healthy Kids Learn Better: How and Why to Improve School Food. I started by talking about the obesity epidemic which is really a big part of the impetus for healthier school food. Then we looked at the Federal guidelines for school meal programs and some of the changes coming because of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act . ESPs need to know this information, but it does not tell them what they can do, so we covered local strategies. These included Farm to School , the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program , school gardens, and Breakfast in the Classroom. This last one is really about increasing participation in the program as well as improving quality.
Your focus was on healthy eating. Can you share some of our member's experiences?
Sure. One custodian really stood out. He was a "food service custodian" working just in the food service area. His school has breakfast in the classroom and he was really positive about it. He said it did not add to his work, just changed it. So instead of cleaning the cafeteria after breakfast, he goes around the building collecting the trash from each classroom. Other participants were really interested in what he was saying.
Another member from New Jersey talked about how her district was trying to make healthier food available, particularly through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
You were also exhibiting. What NEA HIN resource did the attendees get most excited about?
People had lots to say about our shingles book. Many members knew someone who had experienced shingles so they wanted to know how they could reduce their risk. Other popular resources were Start School with Breakfast , Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives , and Tools for Schools. Our lip balm was also very popular because the air in the hotel was so dry.
Were you able to attend any other workshops?
I went to the session on Farm to School Programs presented by the National Farm to School Network and the Massachusetts Teachers Association. People were really excited. A few of the attendees talked about the farmer's markets at their schools. Others were interested in starting up new programs and school gardens.
Did you meet any celebrities?
Yes, I met the Lorax who was there to promote Read Across America. He was quiet, but friendly. And much shorter in person.
Is there anything you want to add?
Thank you to NEA's ESP Quality Department for the invitation to present and exhibit. There were so may first time attendees who were all so excited. It's a great conference.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Today marks the first day of National Nutrition Month, and theme this year is “eat right with color”. I love this year’s theme because it promotes a very simple message that can do wonders to improve a person’s diet. The message can also be easily translated to kids of all ages.
A few years ago I did some work on nutrition education for elementary school children and found that one of the easiest messages for young kids to understand was to “eat the colors of the rainbow”. The message is simple, clear, and gets kids excited about adding more variety to their diet.
It’s also really easy to incorporate the concept into a lesson plan about colors or the spectrum of visible light. First, think about the colors of the rainbow, which I always remember as “Roy G. Biv”. Or in other words: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. I recently learned that Indigo is no longer recognized as part of the color spectrum, so for our purposes let’s leave it out.
With some help from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who sponsors National Nutrition Month, I came up with a list of foods that fall within the colors of the rainbow:
- Red (contain nutrients that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risk):
- Cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes
- Orange (contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity and reduce risk of some cancers):
- Apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, papaya, orange, tangerine, carrot, orange bell pepper, sweet potato and butternut squash
- Yellow (contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity and reduce risk of some cancers):
- Mango, peach, pineapple, lemons, yellow watermelon, yellow bell pepper, yellow corn, yellow summer squash, yellow tomatoes
- Green (may contain antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks):
- Avocado, green apples, grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi, lime, artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers, green onions, pears, zucchini and leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard)
- Blue (may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks):
- Blackberries, blueberries, raisins, black currants, elderberries and prunes
- Violet (may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks):
- Eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato, plums, figs, purple grapes, purple kohlrabi and purple carrots
I hope you can use the list as a guide to teach your students about nutrition, or just to make your own plate a little healthier. For more nutrition education ideas, check out HIN's Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives program materials.
Also, if you’ll be in Memphis for the 2012 NEA Education Support Professional Conference next week, come by and check out my session; I’ll be presenting Saturday, March 10th on why and how ESPs can improve school food. Hope to see you there!
If you are planning on attending the 2012 NEA ESP Conference next week, we can't wait to see you. NEA HIN is pleased to once again be joining Education Support Professionals from around the country. We are looking forward to seeing many friends from past conferences and meeting new ones. As in the past, we will be in the exhibit area with resources and materials to help ESPs create safe, healthy, great public schools for all.
NEA HIN staff will also be presenting two workshops as part of the Skill-Based Learning Professional Development Track. On Saturday afternoon at 2:45 pm Lisa Creighton will be presenting Healthy Kids Learn Better: Why and How to Improve School Food. Making sure that kids have access to healthy, wholesome foods at school can impact both health and behavior. This highly interactive session will focus on the importance of nutrition for child health, programs to improve access to school meals (such as breakfast in the classroom) and the quality of school food (such as farm-to-school). The session will also cover some of the things being done at the local, state, and federal level to improve school food. The session will focus on the ways that ESPs can help students, while building strong community partnerships.
On Sunday morning at 8:15 am, NEA HIN Executive Director Jerry Newberry will present, School Security Officers:Making a Difference for At-Risk Students. Participants in this session will address the critical role of the school security officer in support of at-risk students. Through discussion and activities, participants will address the needs of at-risk students and discuss the unique challenges of the students they work with. The session will focus on building bridges with families and community resources to support student success.
We hope to see you at the conference and copies of the presentations will be available on our website after the conference.
February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on civil rights heroes of the past and issues that affect our communities today. I’ve been reading and seeing a lot of media coverage about the threat of obesity to our nation. It is a well-known fact now that America is suffering from a weight problem in which two out of three adults are considered overweight or obese. However, fewer people may know the disproportionate effect that obesity has on the Black community.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed non-Hispanic Blacks to have the highest rates of obesity with 44.1% considered obese. Other races’ obesity rates are considerably lower: 39.3% of Mexican Americans, 37.9% of all Hispanics, and 32.8% of non-Hispanic Whites are obese. This represents a serious concern for the health of the Black community; the repercussions of obesity are serious and often lead to early death and chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
This information startled me. Why is obesity so prevalent among Black people and why should we be concerned? First Lady Michelle Obama describes obesity, particularly in the Black community as the “slow, quiet everyday threat that doesn’t always appear to warrant the headline urgency of the other issues we face.” The work of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign is a prudent reminder that if we continue down this path of unhealthy lifestyles, the children of today might be the first generation in history to lead shorter lives then their parents.
A CDC report, Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, Whites, and Hispanic Adults suggests three reasons that account for the differences in the prevalence of obesity among populations. First are racial and ethnic differences in behavior that may contribute to weight gain. “Compared with non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanics are less likely to engage in regular (non-occupational) physical activity,” the CDC report says.
The CDC also cites a link to differences based on cultural norms of body image and weight, finding that non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women are more satisfied with their body size than non-Hispanic Whites. This satisfaction means they may be less likely to see a need to lose weight.
Location and place can also greatly shape the nutritional choices available to Black people. Neighborhoods with large minority populations often have fewer chain supermarkets and produce stores. And where there are supermarkets, the price of healthy food is typically significantly higher than the cost of less healthy foods.
With the looming threat of obesity it’s important to understand how to combat its growth. In her speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Obama compared the work against obesity to the civil rights movement, requiring organization, legislation, and individual action to fight the different causes of obesity.
She urged legislators to support policies and programs that improve health and eating habits, provide nutritious food options, and create safe and clean parks to promote exercise. The problem can be addressed at a community level as well, especially through the strong faith-based institutions in the Black community. The First Lady also suggested neighborhood dance teams as a way to get young people engaged in fitness. Community gardens or farmers markets can be organized to supply fresh produce to communities that lack access.
The First Lady is right. By creating strong community-based efforts to combat obesity, many communities will begin to see positive results. It is also critical to establish health and nutrition-based curriculum starting at the elementary school-level to teach future generations to understand the important role food plays in their day-to-day life and overall health.
Her programs and others like them are a solid start to reducing—and maybe even eradicating—obesity in the Black community, but they cannot be the last. In order for systemic change to occur, individuals and groups from all sectors of the community need to be involved. In that spirit, the NEA Health Information Network is committed to promoting and facilitating healthy lifestyles in our schools. Visit the childhood obesity section of the NEA HIN website for more information about their efforts and how you can get involved.
To me the winter holidays are about family, friends, and food. And while I don't think I can get too much of the first two this year, the third one has me concerned. Everywhere I turn there is food, some of it really tasty and some of it not worth a second thought.
Making healthy food choices can be hard at anytime. So while healthy eating and the holidays may not be an oxymoron, it can be particularly challenging when gatherings and gifts abound. To help navigate this challenge, here are ten things we can do to get the most out of the wonderful food of the season without getting too much food.
- Drink lots of water. It fills you up and has the added benefit of keeping your skin moist.
- Keep healthy snacks around. I love vegetables and even in the winter find that if I can snack on raw broccoli or pepper strips I can get some of the “crunch” factor of chips etc.
- Don't forget the lean protein. Protein can help to fill you up.
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy products such as skim milk or non-fat yogurt offer the added benefit of calcium for strong bones.
- Ask yourself if you really want something. Holiday buffets are particularly dangerous because there is so much choice; I need to be sure something is what I really want.
- Make it and serve it yourself. You can control the ingredients (anyone for less oil) and the portion size (no, you don't need the whole plate full).
- Ask is this hunger or boredom (or stress, or anxiety)? If it hunger, what’s the best choice you can make? If it isn’t what else can I do?
- Find something to do with your hands. I knit and sometimes picking up a project and working a few rows will take my mind off the food. Besides, who wants to ruin good yarn with crumbs?
- Exercise. What is there to say, it's good for you on so many levels.
- Enjoy what you eat. Make the healthy choice the tasty choice and don't be afraid to indulge just a little.
Hello, again! Well, after my first blog went live, I decided to celebrate and go back to Weight Watchers that evening for the first time in months.
I know, I know.
It was a pretty boring way to celebrate an exciting new venture. But I figured that if I am going to add my two cents worth about health issues, I had better get back on track with my own. By the time I got to the meeting I was late and almost didn’t go in. (Making creative excuses about things like that is my specialty.) But I overcame the urge to leave and made it through the door feeling like the Prodigal Daughter. I didn’t weigh in, but at least I got started. Again. I’ll weigh in next time.
Managing my weight has been a life-long struggle for me. People who have been successful in keeping their own weight under control call it a “journey,” but for me, the word “trial” fits much better. Webster’s Dictionary (definition 3) calls a trial a “test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation.” Now, tell me that definition isn’t on the nose as it applies to weight management!
One of the programs NEA HIN is working on is geared toward helping NEA members figure out how to get healthier by being more active and making better food choices. I bet the word “trial” fits a lot of your own efforts to get healthier, as you try to find time during your packed schedules to take the focus off of others and put it on yourselves. So, soon we will have some tools you can use to make it a little easier.
I will keep you posted occasionally on my own progress in getting into better shape, and, hopefully, knowing that the challenge isn’t yours alone will make it a little easier for you to do, too. During the holidays, take a little time to do something nice for yourself. My husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary on December 30th, and we’re heading to Annapolis (where we got married) to pause and figure out how we can make the next 20 years even better. And I promise to keep my eyes on the celebration calories…
More later. Bette
According to recent statistics, diabetes is more of a problem than ever. Nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States, and an additional 79 milion Americans are at high risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Why does this matter? Diabetes is a serious, potentially deadly disease. If not mangaged propery, diabestes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, limb ampuations, kidney faliure, and even blindness. In addtion, diabetes costs our country a lot of money - the American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes (which includes costs for medical care, treatment for diabetes complications, and lost workforce productivity) in the United States is $174billion!
As November is National Diabetes Month, now is a good time to think about whether you may already have or at risk for getting diabetes and if so, what you can do to prevent or mange the disease. Risk factors for Type 2 Diabets - the most common form of the disease - include being overweight and a family history of the disease. The good news is that if you already have or at risk for diabets, associated health problems can be prevented by properly managing your diabetes (with the help of a doctor) and by leading a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and a daily dose of physical activity.
As a first step, if you suspect yoru at risk for diabetes, contact yoru doctor to set up a diabetes screenint. Second consider the following tips from the Mayo Clinic as a guide to prevent diabetes and improve overall health.
- Get more physical activity - Regular physical activity can help you lose weight, lower yoru blood sugar, and boost your body's sensitivty to insulin (the hormone that helps regulate the body's blood sugar). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (i.e. brisk walking) each week AND engage in muscle strengthening activities (i.e. weight-lfiting) at least twice a week.
- Increase your fiber intake - Fiber, which can be found in many whole fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds - can help reduce your risk of diabetes by helping to regulate your body's blood sugar, lower your risk of heart disease and promote weight loss beacause it makes you feel fuller. The Mayo Clinic has a good list of high fiber foods.
- Switch to whole grains - Studies have found that whole grains such as brown rice and oats may reduce the risk of diabets and help maintain the body's blodo sugar levels. To check if a food is whole grain, look for the word "whole" befor oen of the first few ingredienta listed on the package label. Find out more aobut how to identify whole grains.
- Lose the extra pounds - If you're overweight, getting to a healthy weight can be one of the most important factors to preventing diabetes. One study found that people who lost just 5-10 percent of their body weithg and exercised regularly reduced their risk of diabetes by almost 60 percent!. CDC has great tips on how to lose weight.
This September marks the second annual observance of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. As the month comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what this observance really means and how we, as people who care about children, can make a difference.
First, why is there a month to promote awareness of childhood obesity? The reason is because childhood obesity has become such huge problem in the United States. Today, more than one-third of all children and adolescents aged 10-17 are overweight or obese. One in three kids! What’s more, over the past forty years, obesity in children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled (from 4.2% to 19.6%) and obesity in adolescents ages 12 to 19 has more than tripled (from 4.6% to 18.1%). Scary stuff.
Obesity tends to cluster in certain states. A new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011 details the state-by-state trends. The report shows that in nine states and the District of Columbia more than 20 percent of children are obese. This means that in those ten areas, more than 1 out of every 5 children is in danger of not outliving their parents because of their weight. Again, scary stuff.
Fortunately, major efforts at the federal, state and local level are helping to make the childhood obesity issue more high-profile among the American public. One federal initiative is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which among other achievements has helped stimulate the passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). The HHFKA represents a major positive milestone in creating healthier school environments.
Some of the exciting changes resulting from the HHFKA include improvements to nutritional standards for school meals and competitive foods (i.e. less french fries and chips, more apples and salads!), startup money for farm to school programs, and better standards for local school wellness policies.
Guidance for how local school wellness policies will be improved under HHFKA was just announced this month. The most notable new requirements for school wellness policies include: the addition of goals for nutrition promotion, the allowance of teacher input into wellness policy development and required transparency and reporting of outcomes.
So, as advocates for child health, how can we do our part to support National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month? First, get informed about the problem; then, get involved in your school and community to make a difference. A good place to start is by checking out the links in this post, and then visiting the childhood obesity section of the NEA HIN website by clicking here.
Next, try to set a good example by taking steps to make your own life healthier. Think about how much physical activity you get in a day. Not much? Start by adding just 10 minutes of physical activity a day until you get up to 30 minutes every day. Think about what you normally eat. A little low on fruits and veggies? Strive to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal, and think about trying a new fruit or vegetable each month to stave off boredom. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a healthier you!
I started my teaching career as an early childhood educator. I taught the little ones, younger than five. Teaching healthy habits such as good nutrition and washing hands was as much a part of our curriculum as social skills (remember to say please and thank you) and academics. So when my own children entered elementary school, I assumed that teaching would go on. But conversations with their teachers led me to realize that they often felt unprepared to teach health. At the elementary school level we ask so much of our teachers. They need to know a how to teach a whole range of content and frankly, health sometimes gets left out due to lack of time, resources, and understanding.
Yet with childhood obesity rates at the highest they have ever been, giving kids the knowledge and the skills they need to lead healthy lives becomes ever more important. Here at NEA HIN, we have been working on a number of initiatives that help teachers and other educators focus on building healthy lives. The most recent of these is Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. It provides K-3 educators with 31 lessons to teach fundamental nutrition and physical activity concepts. The lessons are aligned with national standards in Math, Science, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies. Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives was developed in partnership with Nestle Healthy Kids Global Program. Classroom teachers tested the lessons, reviewed the materials during the development stage, and provided feedback along the way.
Information on how to get copies of Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives can be found here. I hope you will take a look and use them in your classroom.