Why School Wellness Matters

School Wellness:

Schools have many responsibilities beyond traditional education.  They are the public tables where students spend a majority of their waking hours, and eat two or sometimes three meals a day.

Research shows that a healthy, happy child performs better in the classroom, has better attendance, and less behavioral problems.  There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence demonstrating how good nutrition and physical activity are key ingredients for students to thrive.

Gaining Local, Regional, and National Momentum:

The Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative is part of an effort of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community program.  Food & Community invests in community-driven policy and system change projects.  The Northeast Iowa FFI is committed to working with schools to make them vibrant places where people can learn, work, and play.  Food & fitness is becoming a common phrase in schools and communities throughout Northeast Iowa.

By the numbers, the effort to promote local, healthy food and walkable/bikeable communities in Northeast Iowa is gaining significant momentum in the schools. Cause for celebration is the fact that:

  • 14 of the region’s 20 school districts (70%) have created school wellness teams,
  • 16 (80%) of the schools are sourcing locally grown food, and
  • 16 (80%) have participated in a whole series of activities related to active transportation to and from school promoted and supported by the FFI.

These results show that the FFI has been successful at engaging schools in the region through a multi-pronged approach that offers schools:

  • Content and programming for 16 farm-to-school activities from which to choose;
  • Content and programming for 10 walkable/bikeable community-based activities from which to choose; and
  • Two different organizational structures that connect and reconnect the work to various partners. School wellness teams and youth teams are two networks that give youth voice and the schools a chance to articulate and follow their vision for improving access to healthy food and creating walkable/bikeable communities.

School policies, customs, and practices have transformed dramatically as a result of the Northeast Iowa FFI’s work:  

  • Policies on school gardens and using school garden produce in the school lunch program have been established.
  • More schools are sourcing local food, 16 schools are currently sourcing local foods, an increase from 11 last year.
  • More schools are supporting the introduction of healthy foods into school food programs through the use of salad bars.
  • More schools are supporting education, training, and networking to support the incorporation of safe, healthy, local food into school food programs.
  • Food served at extracurricular school-sponsored events has changed to include healthier options.
  • Two schools in the region hired new food service directors; working on Farm to School was part of both job descriptions.
  • At least six infrastructure changes have occurred as a result of both the food and walkable/bikeable communities work.

Join us as we continue building momentum within the six-county region!


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