Two San Diego-area elementary schools have gotten an excellent grade: they’ve been named among the healthiest schools in the United States.
Rosa Parks Elementary School and Alice Birney Elementary School, both part of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), received the prestigious National Healthy Schools Award from Alliance for Healthier Generations, which symbolizes a growing national movement to create healthier schools.
“We received official word two weeks ago, and we were able to publicize it with our staff and get our staff motivated to continue helping this year at Rosa parks,” said Veronica Lopez Mendez, principal of Rosa Parks Elementary School. “One of the first things we wanted to tackle was physical activity and what children consumed while on campus, so we went full force and launched our healthy celebration this last school year.”
Alliance for a Healthier Generations, an organization that empowers children to develop healthy lifelong habits, recognized 323 schools as the Healthiest Schools across the U.S.
Schools made themselves distinguishable by completing a rigorous set of criteria including serving healthy foods and snacks, getting children to move more, providing high quality physical and health education and enabling school leaders to become role models.
According to Alliance for a Healthier Generation, other criteria for recognition included:
- Meet or exceed federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks
- Offer breakfast daily
- Implement district wellness policies and update progress annually
- Provide students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week and ensure physical activity throughout the school day
Despite the long checklist, Rosa Parks Elementary School was up for the challenge.
“We worked really, really hard last year to promote health and wellness here,” said Martha Bajet, a nurse at Rosa Parks Elementary School. “If (students) do want to celebrate with an edible item, we have a list of smart snacks that we promote, and it gives the parents an option to really substitute something like a cupcake or a pizza with something healthy that still the kids will enjoy eating.”
The efforts are to help curb childhood obesity, which is prevalent among the school’s students and puts them at risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to Bajet.
The winners on the Healthiest Schools list span 30 states, including Washington, D.C., California, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia.
Each recognized school participated in Healthier Generation’s landmark Healthy Schools Program, a childhood obesity prevention initiative serving over 20 million students since 2006.
“Every child deserves to go to a healthy school. We couldn’t be prouder to recognize these schools for leading the way,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “The administrators, food service staff, physical educators, classroom teachers and parents in these communities have all worked incredibly hard to prioritize student health and set kids on a path of lifelong success, both in and out of the classroom.”