MSU Extension is a key player in local school wellness initiatives
Kent County Coordinated School Health Program is a local group of coordinating agencies, fighting childhood obesity.
In 2000, a small but passionate group of Kent County agencies joined forces to begin the work of minimizing the childhood obesity epidemic that was beginning to take shape Michigan. The mission: To reach students in school settings with health messages and make changes in the school environment to support students’ health. Through local dollars and grants, this group created mini grants for schools to apply for and use toward making changes in their individual school building. Policies were written, health fairs thrown and smoothies were made. Many students received valuable education on healthy eating and physical activity that allowed them to become better students and grow into healthy adults.
Fast forward 13 years. Many of the same agencies are still meeting and creating a coordinated approach to supporting local schools in their school wellness endeavors. Agencies include Michigan State University Extension, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent County Health Department, Kent County Intermediate School District, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, Campfire of West Michigan and other individuals interested in the health and food security of Kent County students.
One of the lasting impacts of this group that continues is a staff development workshop offered each summer. Healthier Classrooms Healthier Kids is facilitated by local Educational Consultant, Anne King and offered free of charge to participants. The target audience of this is school staff – teachers, principals, nurses, afterschool providers, etc. Through the various partners, speakers are brought in, resources are shared and each participant takes away an electronic toolkit of resources related to school wellness. The objective is for participants to take strategies back to their own school that they can implement and make a difference in students’ health. Making the connection between healthy students and academics is key. Participants are left empowered to make the changes they have control over, such as offering a variety of healthy snacks in place of all sugary treats at a class parties, or teaching students appropriate movement they can do at transition times. The changes may be small but over time can make a lasting difference!