A family enjoying a healthy meal outdoors

Children spend a large part of their day in school, so it makes sense that the health environment of the school – food options, recess and physical activity time, health and wellness education – would have a huge impact on their overall health. As a teacher or school administrator, you have an opportunity to enhance the health of the children at your school by improving the nutrition and physical activity options available to them.  The steps below represent important areas for you to take action and make an immediate impact.

Tip 1

Create a school wellness committee

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Form a school wellness committee, if your school does not already have a one, with members of the following groups:

- School administration
- Staff
- School board members
- Food service representatives
- Physical education/health faculty
- School nurse
- School counselor/psychologist
- Parents
- Older students
- Health professionals
- Community members

The school wellness committee should meet regularly to discuss the health and wellness needs of the school. You should identify a leader or co-leaders and to ensure that there is administrative support for the committee. The committee should evaluate the current policies and practices at the school, and then make plans for any suggested improvements.

Tip 2

Grow a garden at your school

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Planting a garden at your school is a great way to teach children about how fruits and vegetables grow. Kids who garden are more likely to try the fruit and vegetables they grow, and they learn important life skills like cooperation and patience in the process. If you don’t have space for a full garden, try container gardening or window boxes – they are kid-sized and can make your school classrooms or hallways look beautiful!

Tip 3

Serve healthy meals and concessions

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Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a nutritious diet for children and adults. For kids, they provide essential vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. Fried foods should be avoided because they are high in calories and fat, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited as much as possible. Instead, serve children water or low-fat milk.

If children don’t take to fruits and vegetables right away, keep trying – research shows it can take up to 20 exposures before a child will accept the food. And remember to reinforce the healthy messages you teach the children by being a good role model – grab a glass of water instead of soda, eat fruits and vegetables with every meal, and avoid fried foods.

Tip 4

Teach healthy nutrition

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Comprehensive health education covers topics such as nutrition and physical activity, as well as drugs and alcohol, injury prevention and safety, mental and emotional health, disease prevention, development, family life and environmental health.

Teaching children healthy nutrition habits through school curriculum is important because they are in a critical developmental period in which lifelong habits and tastes are being formed. Also, be sure to reinforce healthy messages by being a good role model – grab a glass of water instead of soda, eat fruits and vegetables with every meal, avoid fried foods – and be sure the school environment supports healthy choices.

Nutrition lessons, activities, flyers, bookmarks, and more are available for free online for a variety of age groups.

Tip 5

Promote healthy fundraising and celebrations

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Bake sales, pizza parties, candy drives – school fundraisers and celebrations can be full of unhealthy foods that undermine the health of the students. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many no-cost or low-cost ideas of healthy and active alternatives like fun runs and walk-a-thons, fruit or plant sales, book fairs, extra art or recess time, and more.