Fayette County students are running and jumping more, and they’re also eating more fruits and vegetables instead of junk food, according to this year’s School Wellness Report.
Over the past decade, since the Wellness Report was instituted, public schools across Lexington have increasingly embraced better nutrition and more physical activity with a wide variety of initiatives that improve the health of children.
Initiatives include the following programs: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Farm to School, Smart Snacks in School, and Fuel Up to Play 60. Plus, 32 elementary and all middle and high schools report having fitness clubs that meet either before or after school.
In addition, school gardens have sprouted throughout the district, and 78 teachers signed up to participate in “Simple and Sensible Wellness,” a peer-to-peer professional development opportunity in October.
“This year’s wellness report is the strongest we’ve seen so far,” said Anita Courtney, chairperson of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition.
“Kudos to the school personnel and administrators in FCPS who have contributed to these improvements.”
When Courtney and other citizens met with school district officials in January to discuss the report, a spirit of cooperation and shared mission characterized the meeting.
In fact, the Coalition and school district are now collaborators, having co-sponsored in February the “Simple and Sensible School Wellness Workshop: the Sequel.” The workshop provided teachers with information and ideas to improve wellness among students.
Despite the positive report, progress is uneven throughout the district, Courtney said.
“If your child is part of a school that has changed its wellness culture, lucky you,” she said. “If not, your child is really at a disadvantage.”
Numerous recent studies have confirmed the link between good nutrition and physical activity with enhanced learning and improved behavior among students.
“Investment in wellness will pay off,” Courtney said.
Key markers of positive wellness include banning the use of food as a classroom reward, mandatory daily recess in elementary school, and ensuring that half of food served at school celebrations consists of healthy choices.
To foster those goals, Courtney recommends that the district adopt the School Health Index, which was developed by the CDC.
Said Courtney: “It is a well-designed, thoroughly tested tool that helps schools assess their strengths and areas for growth, and guides them in customizing strategies that suit their school needs.”