Success Stories

Expanding Farm to School Initiatives

School Wellness
Vermont

Burlington School District | Burlington, Vermont

Setting the Stage: Establishing the Local School Wellness Policy

The Burlington School District used CDC’s coordinated school health framework to improve its school health policies and practices and to tailor their programs and practices to their self-identified needs.

In 2010, the Burlington School District created a wellness team whose members represented each of the key areas of the coordinated school health framework. The team included parents, teachers, one school principal, the district’s food service director, a school board member, a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, school nurses, a representative from the Vermont State Department of Health, and community members. The district’s wellness coordinator recruited team members by inviting people from throughout the community to help the district revise its wellness policy.

The team started by using CDC’s School Health Index, a self-assessment and planning tool, to conduct a needs assessment. Team members also reviewed data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System to determine what behaviors needed to be addressed in the district’s wellness policy. They used several resources to write the new policy, which was then approved by the school board. These resources included the coordinated school health framework, Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities, Grade Expectations for Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities, and the Vermont Nutrition and Fitness Policy Guidelines.

To implement the new wellness policy throughout the district, each school formed a wellness team that included parents, teachers, school staff, and representatives from area nonprofit organizations. These teams met once a month to review the implementation process and to monitor, evaluate, and update programs as needed. The district’s wellness coordinator attended these meetings and led discussions on how to implement policy components.

Taking Action: Activities to Meet Local School Wellness Policy Goals

Community Partnerships to Reach Students and Families

To achieve its goal of working with local organizations to promote health and wellness, the district partnered with the City Market, Onion River Co-op (a community owned food cooperative); Shelburne Farms; and Vermont FEED to create the Burlington School Food Project (BSFP). The BSFP’s mission is to connect students and their families with fresh, local foods to improve the health of the overall community. As Vermont’s largest Farm to School program, the BSFP is a model for the rest of the state and the country.

Each partner made a different contribution to improving student health. For example, a Farm to School program that provided fresh, nutritious foods daily to all district’s schools was sponsored by the Vermont Community Garden Network’s Healthy City Youth Initiative and local farmers. The Healthy City Youth Initiative also coordinated the Healthy City Summer Program, which gave teens a chance to learn job skills as they maintained and harvested school gardens throughout the district.

Vermont FEED worked with the BSFP to organize the Jr Iron Chef Vermont contest. This cooking competition gave middle and high school students a chance to learn how to cook nutritious food, make healthy eating choices, and learn more about fresh produce.

Another essential partner was the Burlington Kids Afterschool Program. This joint program between the district and the City of Burlington Parks and Recreation Department provided healthy snacks to afterschool programs throughout the district. It was funded by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 as part of the National School Lunch Program. 

Professional Development and Nutrition Education

The district partnered with the City Market, Onion River Co-op to host weekly cooking classes for school food service staff and the public. Topics included seasonal cooking on a budget and ethnic recipes. Food service staff who attended the classes learned new recipes that they could use in school meals. Students responded well to many of the new recipes and food items, even asking for them to be featured more often.

The co-op also offered cooking classes, nutrition activities, and tours for students. These activities, which typically included a math theme, took place several times a year as field trips or as optional afterschool activities. For example, students learned to make hummus with either dried beans or canned beans and then calculated and compared the costs of each. They also learned to draw maps to compare the distance that different varieties of apples had traveled to get to the co-op.

Accomplishments

The district formed community partnerships that have expanded Farm to School initiatives, improved nutrition education, and provided essential training for school nutrition services staff. Through the BSFP, the district was able to teach staff new food preparation skills and buy equipment and food items that the district could not afford alone. Since healthier meals were introduced, participation in the district’s school meal program has more than doubled. Ongoing nutrition education has helped students be more receptive to meal changes and take an active role in their health and wellness.

As a result of these efforts, eight Burlington School District schools received the Bronze award in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge. Burlington’s schools were the

Sourced from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Putting Local School Wellness Policies into Action. Atlanta, GA: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2014. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/dph.