Creating Healthier Learning Environments
Since 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program has been helping schools across the country transform themselves into healthier places—places where nutritious foods are available to students and physical activity is a priority. Back then, the program reached out to 231 schools in 13 states. Today, it supports more than 14,000 schools across the country, and has the only youth-led advisory group in the country focused on childhood obesity.
Each year, the Healthy Schools Program chooses a handful of its most effective advocates to join the National Champions Network. These Champions, who are honored for their diligence in creating healthy school environments for students and staff, become national spokespeople for the Healthy Schools Program, motivating other schools, staff members, and administrators to commit the time and resources to build healthier campuses. The Alliance recently announced this year’s National Health Champions Network representatives, which include school superintendents, principals, physical education and health teachers, food service directors, district wellness specialists, and parents from 18 different schools who have committed to promoting healthy lifestyles for their students and teachers. The champions hail from 14 different states—Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
In addition, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation also recently announced its new Youth Advisory Board members. The Alliance relies on its Board to advise the organization on how best to inspire young people to make healthy behavior changes and become leaders and advocates for healthy eating and physical activity. These students are role models in their communities: each board member is not only a thought-leader on obesity issues, but is also responsible for initiating healthy changes in their own neighborhoods and school districts by engaging in service-learning programs in their communities.
This year’s Board members, ranging in age from 8 to 17 and coming from 18 states, exemplify the key role that young people play in both engaging and educating their peers. Involving and honoring these young activists and Healthy Schools Program’s Champions is an important step towards achieving healthier schools throughout America.
Both the Youth Advisory Board and the National Health Champions Network are making a difference in their communities. Over the last 6 years, nearly 80 percent of the schools involved in the Healthy Schools Program have made measurable progress towards creating a healthier school environment: they have improved the nutritional value of meals they serve at lunch, reduced the number of sugary sodas seen around the halls, and leave their facilities open so students can participate in active afterschool programs.