In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed as an addition to the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act requiring all local educational agencies (LEAs) and school districts participating in child nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, to create a local school wellness policy1. All LEAs had to revise their wellness policies by June 30, 2017 to comply with these Acts. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (CHP) partners with a national organization, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who has created the Healthy Schools Program with a framework to support creating wellness policies covering requirements of these Acts.
I serve as an intermediary support for schools in assessing their sites, creating action plans to set goals towards complying with their wellness policies, and connecting them to resources to meet their Healthy Schools Programmatic goals. Each school and school district is different and varies in engagement with CHP; however, Penn Hills Schools District (PHSD) has become increasingly engaged as a district since the start of our partnership last fall. Penn Hills School District has started initiatives to support youth engagement and empowerment, such as partnering with CHP’s Department of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine to implement their Youth Leadership in Action program, and support staff wellness through partnering with the Penn Hills YMCA. Through Healthy Schools meetings, we identified the integration of the wellness policy addressing healthy eating and what foods are allowed to be brought into the schools, especially during celebrations, will be the most difficult to transition. There is already a student culture around the snacks they bring in, such as cans of soda pop, bags of chips and candy. Additionally, parents are accustomed to bringing in cupcakes and other treats for celebrations and there has already been concerns expressed about access to healthier snacks as a replacement. PHSD is trying to see what can be done to immediately prohibit the food without getting too much resistance.
A couple months ago, PHSD decided to strive towards becoming a Live Well Allegheny School District. The Live Well Allegheny initiative strives to improve the health and wellness of county residents by schools, communities, workplaces or restaurants committing with intent to set goals towards healthier environments2. The district is looking to connect with more partners to provide support in their health initiatives and support families in making healthier choices. From the original idea to transition to healthier snacks stemmed an idea to partner with local stores to provide support in identifying these snack for families. After collaboration with several CHP departments, the Department of Human Services, the United Way of Southwestern PA, and the Allegheny County Health Department, the PHSD decided to also connect with the Penn Hills Municipality at large and strive for a Live Well Community Status! The idea is to gain support of the community at large to strive towards healthier habits.
It is still unclear if becoming a Live Well Community will support the current goals of PHSD. It is even unclear if Penn Hills will become a Live Well Community at all. However, the strides the school district has made in the past six months have already shown positive impacts among the attitudes of the teachers and students. It is exciting to see the passion and commitment the staff of this school district has shown and what they can accomplish when they are connected to resources and support. It has been amazing to be one of the people to connect them to resources and watch what develops.
* Image from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
1. “Team Nutrition.” Food and Nutrition Service, 6 Nov. 2017, www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy.
2. “Live Well Allegheny.” Live Well Allegheny, 2016, www.livewellallegheny.com/.
This post was written by NPHC member Tyler Hendricks.
Tyler serves at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh - UPMC as an Outreach Coordinator.