Farmington Area Public Schools | Farmington, Minnesota
Setting the Stage: Establishing the Local School Wellness Policy
The district’s wellness committee consisted of representatives from each school, including parents; teachers; and staff in food service, community education, health services, and human resources. The committee also included a representative for the county health department and a representative from the district’s health insurance provider. One county school board member and an assistant superintendent attended committee meetings and shared information with the rest of the school board. The committee also met with students as needed.
To update the district’s wellness policy, each school completed a baseline assessment created by the Dakota County Public Health Department. Health department staff then helped the wellness committee set goals and develop an implementation plan for improving school environments based on the assessment. The revised policy was reviewed and approved by the school board in 2011.
The health department also worked with the district to get a Smart Choices grant, which was used to provide stipends for committee members to actively promote and implement wellness policy initiatives. This grant came from the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota through its Prevention Minnesota Initiative.
Taking Action: Activities to Meet Local School Wellness Policy Goals
To increase nutrition education for its students, the district’s food service department contracted with a local farmer to make presentations to students. It organized taste tests at several schools during National Nutrition Month and held a competition at the elementary schools to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables every day.
In the secondary schools, students learned about the benefits of healthy snack choices such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Students were also able to sample healthy snacks, such as mini yogurt parfaits and hummus.
To enhance their nutrition education activities, two elementary schools partnered with Valley Natural Foods co-op to organize creative, healthy fundraising and community events. The co-op donated $1,000 to each school for activities such as cooking demonstrations, scavenger hunts, and food tastings. The co-op staff also worked with the district’s parent teacher associations to promote healthy fundraising options, such as selling fruit boxes or holding fun runs.
In addition, some schools presented TV segments on healthy cooking during their morning announcements. Students planned and performed segments that mimicked the Food Network and featured healthy foods like fruit kebobs and mini English muffin pizzas. One elementary school even had a mystery fruit and vegetable trivia contest during it morning announcements.
To identify which programs were having a positive effect on students, the local health department helped the district evaluate the nutrition education activities in each school.
School Meals and Competitive Foods
The district’s food service director and assistant director were members of the wellness committee and were very involved in implementing the new wellness policy. The food service department worked with administrators and school nurses to plan high-quality meals that met IOM’s 2009 recommendations for school meals. These recommendations included increasing the amount and variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; setting minimum and maximum levels of calories; and focusing more on reducing saturated fat and sodium.
The district held fruit and vegetable taste tests to give students an active role in developing the lunch menu. Elementary school students were able to taste nine different fruits and vegetables throughout the school year and then vote on their favorites. The result was more variety of fruits and vegetables in school lunches.
The district also gradually added more healthy options to vending machines, school cafeterias, school snack shops, and meals and snacks available before and after school. Students who worked at the high school snack shop were actively involved in this transition. They reviewed nutrition labels to make sure all snacks met IOM’s recommendations for competitive foods.
One of the most successful and innovative initiatives that the district undertook was transforming its high school snack shop. Students in the school’s marketing class operate the snack shop, and they worked with Catalyst, a youth advocacy group, to add healthier food choices. Throughout the district, snack carts in elementary schools offer 100% healthy options, and the vending machines in middle and high schools offer close to 100% healthy options. A registered dietitian from the district is helping schools meet the goal of 100% healthy options in the vending machines.
The district also received a Center for Excellence award from Chartwells, a food service management company. This award recognized the district’s high-quality food products and services and designated it as a training, research, and development site for other districts.
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.