Friday, April 17, 2015

New Wellness Policy on Nutrition & Physical Activity at School

As mentioned in the April Crocker Chronicles letter from Mr. Shea & Ms. Conklin, in March 2015, the Regional School Committee approved a new policy related to food & nutrition, & physical activity at school, & Superintendent Maria Geryk is now preparing guidelines that will help with the implementation of this policy.  This policy has not yet been voted on by the Amherst School Committee for the Amherst elementary schools.   

For those who are interested, the full text of the policy (Policy ADF: Wellness) is available on the web site.

Here are the excerpts on the policy's two main areas of focus: nutrition/food & physical activity. 

The Districts support the concept that healthy foods contribute to healthy students.  Therefore, the Districts shall provide students receiving school meals with access to a variety of nutritious, appealing, and fresh foods that meet or exceed the documented health and nutritional needs of students as referenced by federal and state governments and independent sources with nutritional expertise.  All meals and beverages made available during the regular school day or during school-sponsored programming shall meet or exceed the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Nutrition Standards and U.S. Dietary Guidelines.   The Districts shall participate in the school meals programs including but not limited to the federal School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the Massachusetts Farm to School Project.

Whenever possible, preference will be given to foods that are locally grown and processed (canned or frozen) within 50 miles of Amherst, Massachusetts and secondarily within the state of Massachusetts for all meals and snacks provided by the Districts.  Likewise, preference will be given to serving fresh foods or freshly cooked food over canned or preserved foods.    The Districts will strive to eliminate foods from all meals that contain food coloring, modified food starch (or similar product by other name), as well as sweetened beverages and pre-fried foods.  Water will be made available to students throughout the day.

Staff in the Districts shall refrain from using food as a reward or punishment with students, and celebrations, such as birthdays, will be celebrated without food.   Ideas for celebrations will be developed and shared to assist classroom teachers and families. Students will be provided with adequate time to eat and meals will be served at reasonably appropriate times in the school schedule.  Meals and snacks will be served in clean, safe and pleasant settings, and meals should have serving sizes that are age-appropriate.  The Superintendent, or his or her designee, will develop guidelines that will help to promote these practices in each building.    

Physical Activity
The Districts support the idea that students’ educational experience is enhanced by a combination of sufficient physical activities during the school day.   Therefore, the Districts will provide regular and frequent opportunities and supports for PreK-12 students to be physically active and to achieve recommended physical fitness standards set by NASPE.  Recess, in-class activities, and physical education will be offered to students in grades Pre-K to 6th grade and frequent, scheduled opportunities for physical movement and physical education will be offered to students in grades 7-12.  Suggestions of how to incorporate movement and physical activity into the classroom and school day experiences for students will be offered to teachers and administrators.  These opportunities are designed to promote patterns of meaningful physical activity that connect to students’ lives and to foster long-term personal patterns for lifelong activity. 

In grades K-6, recess shall be offered at least once a day, with preference for additional activity for all.  Recess shall include both structured and unstructured play.  While safety will be paramount, enabling a range of activities, especially student-driven activities, will be encouraged.  Physical activity in the classroom is encouraged and may include organized breaks from instruction, integral components of curriculum or activities based on individual needs of students for movement .  
The Districts believe that physical activity is an integral part of a child’s day.  Physical education will be an integral component of the curriculum for all students within the Districts, with a focus on developing lifelong patterns of physical activity.

Health education should be a component of the K-12 curriculum for all students in the Districts.  The curriculum will be aligned with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Frameworks and will focus on building an understanding of healthy living habits.