This blog was written by Patti Suppe, P.E. Teacher, Loma Vista Middle School, Riverside, CA. It originally appeared on saludtoday.com.
At Loma Vista Middle School, we have a vision that all students will realize their unlimited potential. Our goal is for them to excel in all areas of their middle school education, from academics to physical fitness and co-curricular activities.
As a physical education teacher, I know first-hand the importance of health and wellness in achieving this goal.
That’s why we enrolled in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, funded in part by Kaiser Permanente in select U.S. cities, including Riverside. The Program has had a huge impact on our school achieving our wellness goals. This year, we were named one of America’s Healthiest Schools – and were one of only 14 schools across the country to receive the highest level of recognition, the National Healthy Schools Gold Award!
Achieving this award, however, wasn’t easy. We know from research that significant racial and ethnic disparities exist in obesity prevalence among American children, and those disparities are pronounced in California’s diverse communities. More than 38% of our California’s residents are Hispanic or Latino. And at Loma Vista, 86% of our student body is Hispanic and 90% of our students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
While studies show that students who live in low-income communities and/or are racial or ethnic minorities are at increased risk for poor health outcomes, Loma Vista is proof that any school, regardless of its circumstances, can transform its campus into a healthier environment.
It simply starts with a desire to make a change.
For example, we discovered that when students learn more about where food comes from, they are excited to try new fruits and vegetables. From starting a school garden – where we planted, grew and harvested vegetables to showcase at a “Family Fun Night” – to hosting taste tests with locally-grown fruits, Loma Vista students became active participants in our quest to be healthier.
These nutrition efforts, together with our emphasis on physical activity, have ignited a culture of health on our campus – one that our students are proud to have helped create.
And we have the results to prove it. Over half of our students now consume two or more fruits and three or more vegetables each day, up from just 27% before starting our journey. Today, 83% of students engage in the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. And now, we’re even seeing progress in our classrooms, where Loma Vista’s school-wide GPA has increased from 2.69 to 2.81.
The truth is, there isn’t a big secret to our success.
Our school – like many others across the country – is comprised of positive, enthusiastic students and staff who put forth the effort to meet and exceed challenges. Achieving this award was no exception. When we first saw the National Healthy Schools Award criteria, we knew we’d have to work together to make the healthy changes needed. We were confident that with our attitude, combined with the resources of the Healthy Schools Program, there was no stopping us from succeeding!
Our story proves what we Loma Vista Lions have always believed to be true: that any school, regardless of its zip code, has what it takes to be healthy – and in doing so, its students can live up to their unlimited potential.
Ready to live up to your potential and become one of America’s healthiest schools? Join us!