My job for the last year has been to engage schools and districts to take wellness seriously as a keystone in their success. Often overlooked or sold out, healthy bodies are essential for healthy minds. Eating well and being physically active improves tests scores, reduces absenteeism, reduces health care costs, improves self-esteem, and can lessen environmental impacts.
We all know Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, we all know the Lunch Lady song. If you’re in a school, you also know that physical education has typically been paired back year after year, that there isn’t enough time to eat a good lunch, and that there are more cupcakes than days of the year.
The strategy for my job is to affect policies, systems, and environments, as these things affect the most people for the longest period of time. Consider that if your neighborhood has a problem with people speeding down the road you could either try to educate every driver why s/he should slow down, or you can install a speed bump. The latter takes a lot less time and energy and is proven to slow people down. The former has no guarantees; usually there are short-term changes, but over time people return to their habits as the pressures of time and having access to way more horsepower than anyone needs affects better judgement.
An environmental change I have championed at work is school gardens. I just released $20,000 to 10 schools to build and expand school gardens. Each school received +/- $2,000. Five schools are starting brand new gardens. Today I helped (modestly, most of the work was already done when I arrived) one school build 12 raised beds and install a fence. As the garden coordinator being interviewed said, “this garden will affect all the students.” All 800 of them.
Studies have shown that kids who work in gardens have better attitudes towards food, are more willing to try new things, and might have better problem solving skills. Also, their self-esteem goes up and their behavior in classrooms improve because they have been outside.
Everyday, we sow seeds. We sow seeds of hope and love, or doubt and fear. Everyday, we plant seeds that will shape the future. Today, I am very proud of the seeds I have sown.