This is a guest post by Mary Michaud, a retired school counselor and teacher – passionate about children’s mental and physical health — volunteers with the BLEND Walk-At-School Healthy Fundraising projects, as well as, “Children Against Hunger of Central MN.
Several years ago, a small group of teachers at my school (South Junior High, St. Cloud, MN), concerned about student health, saw a negative connection between the annual “all school walk” (a healthy home room activity) and selling unhealthy food as a fundraiser. The hypocrisy of sponsoring both these activities struck us and we began brainstorming ideas for a healthy fundraiser. That spring we facilitated “Walkin’ Wildcats” as a walk-a-thon fundraising pilot and it was wildly successful.
And so began the annual event – its success has far-surpassed our expectations, both educationally and financially. Most South staff readily accepted a fundraiser which did not require complicated money collection and record-keeping. Parents were ecstatic about not having to sell, purchase, and deliver frozen foods. And, students especially took up the challenge of raising money to have fun walking outside with their friends, win great prizes and participate in physical activity stations.
Justification of a walk-a-thon as opposed to unhealthy food sales is easy. One has only to turn on the news to observe initiatives being launched nationally to respond to issues of childhood obesity or read reports to learn how today’s school food environment can make an impact on the health of our children. Providing a healthy fundraising event is one step to eliminating the competitive foods available during the school day and improving the health of our children. Teachers are able to reinforce active living and healthy choices through PE and Health curricula, and can inspire students with their own knowledge about health and even personal anecdotes. Overall, the walk-a-thon sends a positive message to everyone involved.
Yes, planning and implementing a successful walk-a-thon is challenging and time-consuming, so a committed group of staff, including administration, is necessary. The rewards gained from this event far exceed the efforts! Communication with, and support from, parents is instrumental, as well. The process at South changes and improves every year, with plentiful ideas from students, parents, and staff.
Read about more our 2011 Walkin’ Wildcats Walk-A-Thon on the BLEND website!
BLEND is offering help and support for schools willing to try this healthy activity. I encourage you go to their website to learn more about their resources and give it a try.
St. Cloud, MN
Salty snacks, sugary drinks, pizza, ice cream, and french fries may soon be hard for students to purchase in school vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria à la carte lines. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue its new national nutrition standards for foods (snacks and beverages) sold in schools. These standards could limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat foods could contain.
Any food or beverage that “competes” with the school lunch program is considered a “competitive food”. Today, kids are consuming more than half of their daily calories in school – unfortunately, more and more students are getting most of their calories from competitive foods like snacks and drinks, not meals.
A lot has changed since the USDA last updated there guidelines in 1979. The school food environment has dramatically altered and so has the health of our children. Students have access to a lot of varieties of foods and often they are not the healthiest. The soon proposed national nutrition standards comes at a time when more than one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.
A recent poll by the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project finds that the vast majority of voters are in favor of national nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools.
- 80 percent of voters favor national standards limiting the calories, fat, and sodium in snack and à la carte foods sold in U.S. schools; and
- 81 percent of voters are concerned about childhood obesity, including more than half (54 percent), who say they are very concerned.
Watch this video to learn more about the issue of snacks and beverages sold in schools.
What do you think – do sugar-sweetened beverages, candy bars and other unhealthy foods deserve a place in schools?