Table Of Contents
Inspired by the forum presentations and the multiple ideas generated by the promising practices presented, the discussions in the meeting circle around several overarching themes that are, at once, normative and aspirational. In other words, advisory group members would like to see those broad concepts as the basis of the work school districts and government agencies undertake to improve school food, fitness and environments.
Some of those themes are:
- Creation of enabling environments for creativity and innovation, so that the healthy choice becomes the default and easy choice. The implementation of effective measurable wellness policies goes a long way towards this goal. These policies and all programs require a holistic perspective that focuses on the whole child.
- Produce proof of concept by showcasing programs that have worked in your own community. This is related to the need for continuous evaluation in to obtain validation of the programs.
- Since these transformative efforts have to measure up somehow in terms of academic achievement, it is essential to show the connection between healthy food and physical activity and the schools' missions of teaching students. This connection is particularly critical in communities of color and low income ones.
- The recognition of the existent disparities, and again, the link between health and academic disparities, should be an essential component of all efforts to transform school environments. The role that visionaries and passionate advocates play has to be recognized and nurtured.
- Families, community and partnerships are keys to success, and are the source of external pressure on the system and the school districts, as well as of support for successful programs. The importance of grassroots mobilization and of stakeholder empowerment cannot be overemphasized.
- Student engagement should be a constitutive element at all levels of program and policy development and implementation. The benefits of student engagement are multiple, not the least of them being the ability to change the social norms in the schools.
- There needs to be multidisciplinary teams at work in collaboration with all stakeholders.
- There is a need to increase access to fresh and local food, particularly in those communities that could be considered food desserts and whose children rely on school food as the main source of nourishment.
- It is important to broaden the knowledge base by emphasizing health and wellness education, as well as promoting hands-on learning about food, food systems, agriculture, and life sciences education.
- Cultural competence, manifested in the recognition of and respect for cultural and regional differences, should guide all processes of transformation. Lack of cultural competence and sensitivity is actually a significant determinant of health disparities.
- It is imperative to establish generalized procedures, guidelines and tools and a culture of dissemination of information and sharing of best models and practices.
- The issue should be framed in terms of what is possible, not in terms of what is not allowed or cannot happen.