The Total Child

Community of Practice: A District Team Approach to Strengthening Breakfast After the Bell

(Alternative School Breakfast , Healthy Eating and Active Living , Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Alison Maurice, Child Nutrition Policy Analyst and Megan McDonough, Child Nutrition Summer Intern, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

AASA, The School Superintendents Association (AASA) and The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) partnered to host a webinar featuring three school districts that participate in AASA’s “Feeding Hungry Minds” alternative school breakfast initiative. Since 2011, The Walmart Foundation has supported AASA’s work.  


This webinar featured Mountain View School District in California, Spring Independent School District (ISD) in Texas, and Newburgh Enlarged City School District in New York. These school district offers breakfast to their students using breakfast after the bell (BATB) models. The alternative breakfast programs these school districts have built -- with mentorship, technical assistance, and other support from AASA -- exemplify what is possible when school administrators and school nutrition staff join together to ensure students have the morning nutrition they need to be successful in the classroom.

To facilitate engagement of school superintendents and school nutrition directors, AASA established the Community of Practice (CoP) model as an integral part of their work on school breakfast with districts. The CoP brings together superintendents, food service directors, state anti-hunger organizations, and dairy associations to share best practices and problem solve together. The CoP’s structure encourages relationship building for a deeper understanding of participants’ shared vision on children, health and hunger. 

In 2013, Mountain View School District launched a grab and go breakfast program in all 12 of its schools. From 2013 to 2014, the district increased average daily school breakfast participation by 71 percent, with 5 out of 12 schools increasing by more than 100 percent.

“I believe administrative support, and in particular superintendent support, especially when initiating this program is critical,” said Lillian Maldonado French, Superintendent of Mountain View School District. “When folks knew it was something that we were all behind, especially something that the board and I were willing to support, I think folks really came along and tried to make sure that it was a success.” 

Spring ISD launched their district-wide school breakfast program in 2015 that began with eight schools and successfully grew to universal free breakfast by the end of that year. This is a priority for Superintendent Rodney Watson, who meets monthly with the district’s Chief Operating Officer, Director of Child Nutrition, students, and the Texas Department of Agriculture to set benchmarks for the school breakfast program.

Spring ISD’s 26 elementary schools serve breakfast in the classroom (BIC), while the 4 high schools and 2 middle schools use grab and go kiosks to distribute breakfast. Shelly Copeland, Director of Child Nutrition, noted that one of her principals quickly saw improvements in student behavior ,“and we see that on a daily basis—the calmness of the students and the community feel of having breakfast in the classroom.”

Newburgh Enlarged City School District had more than a 100 percent increase in breakfast participation in each of their 14 schools in 2015 when they began providing BIC to their 12,000 students.

“We believe in the research around when a child is hungry, the impact that it will have on student learning,” stated Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. “We [superintendents] are all in this profession because we love children and we want to create conditions whereby they have the optimal opportunity to achieve at the highest level. This is just simply a matter of removing a barrier that could get in that way.”

 Since 2011, AASA has engaged 30 school districts to increase participation in school breakfast to reduce hunger and increase the number of students who are healthy, alert, in school and learning. Learn more about this initiative through two School Governance and Leadership (SG&L) Publications: “Improving Attendance Health and Behavior: Moving Breakfast Out of the Cafeteria (2013)” and “Feeding Hungry Minds: Stories from the Field (2017). Access AASA’s resource library for more information on this initiative.

 Follow this link to access the webinar recording, and use this password: PpUV4P2Y

Celebrating 2018 National School Breakfast Week

(Alternative School Breakfast , Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Since 2011, AASA has engaged 30 school districts in the Alternative School Breakfast Initiative, supported by the Walmart Foundation. This program increases the number of children who eat school breakfast, by taking breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom and hallways through Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go, and Second Chance options.

The eight districts in our most recent cohort held activities during National School Breakfast Week to raise awareness of their school breakfast programs. Here are some shining examples.

National Recognition 

Alhambra Unified School District receives USDA’s 2018 Champions of Breakfast Award

USDA awarded Alhambra Unified School District (CA), the Western Region's 2018 Champions of Breakfast Award for the category, Implementation of an Innovative School Breakfast Model. This award recognizes schools and districts that operate exemplary school breakfast programs. Alhambra USD implemented a Grab N' Go Breakfast Model.

National School Breakfast Week Activities: Breakfast Samples, Active Living Prizes and More 

First Lady of Virginia Samples Grab N’Go Breakfast in Chesterfield County Public Schools

 Chesterfield first lady visit
 The First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam, preparing to sample breakfast on a Grab N' Go Kiosk at an elementary school in Chesterfield County Public Schools (Va.). Photo Credit: The Office of Governor Ralph Northam.

As part of National School Breakfast Week, Pamela Northam, The First Lady of Virginia, visited one of the elementary schools participating in AASA's alternative school breakfast initiative program in Chesterfield County Public Schools (VA). The elementary school offers Grab N' Go Breakfast with a kiosk in the hallway. Read more about this event.

An Array of Activities Celebrating Breakfast at Community Consolidated School District 21 (Ill.)

Community Consolidated School District 21 had a variety of activities to celebrate NSBW including Dress Up Days like crazy hat day and school spirit day. Students and staff wrote thank you notes to cafeteria staff, and principals at breakfast with their students. A principal was selected as a breakfast champion. Students who participated in breakfast that week won prices included scooters and swim passes.

Chef Tables Offer Opportunity to Sample School Breakfast at Stamford Public Schools (Conn.)  

Stamford Smoothies NSBW 2018

 Students sampled breakfast smoothies and oatmeal (flavors included apple pie and peaches and cream) at a chef table at an elementary and middle school in Stamford Public Schools (Conn.) during lunchtime. A dairy farmer from the New England Dairy Council visited the middle school to illustrate the importance of ensuring optimal nutrition for cows.  

AASA Also Got Out to Support Districts

New York State Press Event

On March 15th, Kayla Jackson presented at an event in Albany, NY which was held by The American Dairy Association North East. With the goal of highlighting Governor Cuomo's "No Student Goes Hungry" campaign, the event presented a "state of the state" on New York School Breakfast. Crystal FitzSimons from FRAC highlighted the great work that several NY districts had done on school breakfast, specifically calling out the success of school breakfast in Newburgh Enlarged City School District and Schenectady City School District. Jessica Pino-Goodspeed, a mentor from Hunger Solutions New York, shared findings from "Bridging The Gap: Ending Student Hunger with Breakfast After the Bell 2018 New York State School Breakfast Report."

Kelly Masline, Senior Associate Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents was also in attendance.

AASA was invited to share the importance of superintendent support for breakfast as a crucial component for success and sustainability and to introduce two of our currently funded districts, Rochester City School District and Enlarged City School District of Middletown, both of whom shared the success of their school breakfast work.

 Yogurt Parfaits at Enlarged City School District of Middletown (NY) 

MiddletownSmoothies MiddletownKiosk
 During National School Breakfast Week, students in the Enlarged City School District of Middletown tried new Fruit -N- Yogurt Parfaits.


New School Wellness Resources for the New Year

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post from Cheryl Jackson Lewis, Director, Nutrition, Education, Training, and Technical Assistance Division, Child Nutrition Programs, Food and Nutrition Service. 

 Toolkit Header

Have you set any goals for health and wellness in 2017? There are many ways superintendents can help schools create and cultivate a culture of academic success and wellness. District leaders across the country are championing Local School Wellness Policies, with an understanding that kids with healthier eating patterns and enough physical activity tend to have better grades; remember what was taught in class; behave better in class; and miss less school time. A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn. Superintendents play a critical role in helping children have healthy places to learn; and it’s easier than ever to bring everyone together on this important issue.

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 added new provisions for the implementation, evaluation, and public involvement and reporting on the progress of Local School Wellness Policies. The Local School Wellness Policy final rule, published July 21, 2016, requires schools to engage parents, students, and community members in the annual development and assessment of local school wellness policies. It’s important for everyone to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of the community and student’s needs. Local educational agencies must fully comply with the requirements of the final rule by June 30, 2017.

 School Wellness Champion
 Parents, school staff and administrators, and community members work together to develop the Local School Wellness Policy and put it into action.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Team Nutrition initiative provides a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that superintendents, school wellness leaders, and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents, principals, and other school staff. The kit includes:

  •  A letter to the wellness coordinator;
  • Sample letter to school principals;
  • Informational flyers, in English and Spanish;
  • Presentations for parents and school staff;
  • Sample newsletter article; and
  • Social media posts and graphics.

 The free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit is available at:

Parents and school staff are not always aware of the Local School Wellness Policy and how it is being put into action. These tools can help and may be customized to reflect information specific to the school/school district’s policy. Additional Local Schools Wellness Policy resources on creating, implementing, and evaluating school wellness policies are available at Team Nutrition’s Web site:

January is a great time to reflect on how to further your efforts to engage parents, school staff and the community in school wellness efforts that support academic performance and health. Start with these ready resources and put a plan into action that works for your schools.  

 school garden

 Nutrition education and promotion are part of a Local School Wellness Policy.

AASA Community of Practice Highlights the Impact of Alternative School Breakfast

(Alternative School Breakfast , Healthy Eating and Active Living , On The Road) Permanent link

The entire group for the Community of Practice at the end of the meeting in New Orleans.

 On October 19th and 20th, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, convened a Community of Practice for current and former Food Service Directors along with their mentors in New Orleans. A Community of Practice is more than a meeting, it’s an opportunity for participants to share best practices, brainstorm ideas to address challenges through case studies, and share stories on how the program has impacted their schools and community.

Mentors from state-level, anti-hunger community organizations, as well as food service directors from past cohorts, shared their expertise through interactive panel discussions. Everyone had a chance to network at a celebratory dinner in New Orleans, after spending the afternoon together.

Since 2011, with funding from the Walmart Foundation, AASA works with districts to increase school breakfast participation using alternative breakfast strategies like Grab N' Go and Breakfast in the Classroom. The current cohort of eleven school districts has been working with AASA since Spring 2015. AASA has funded 22 districts to do this work since 2011.

What Would You Do? Collaborative Case Studies  


 Following the welcome, introductions, and storytelling, participants were broken out into smaller groups to work on case studies. The case studies were inspired by focus groups that AASA conducted at four school districts currently participating in the initiative. Learn more about the focus groups from The Total Child

 In the case studies, groups developed plans on how to address hunger in their community, discussed how to approach the issue of food waste in their schools and developed a strategy on how to expand the breakfast program with parental support. They also considered different perspectives on healthy, less popular foods versus the more sugary foods like Pop tarts. One group developed their ideal alternative school breakfast program - if there were no limits with staffing or money. Participants were appreciative of this activity because it focused on issues that they face daily.

Insights and Advice from Past Food Service Directors and Mentors  

A panel of past food service directors.

 The Community of Practice featured two interactive panels: one featuring food service directors from past cohorts and another featuring mentor from statewide anti-hunger and dairy organizations.
The past food service directors panel focused on sustainability in terms of political support and communications. Key points included:

  •  Looking back, they were shocked on how much they needed the alternative school program.
  •  First and foremost, it’s important to consider what is best for children. Alternative School Breakfast has the potential to impact lives.
  •  If key stakeholders like superintendents and principals aren’t on board to have the program, historical data is important to show the importance of the school breakfast.
  •  Food service directors need to be connected to the superintendent, so that they are viewed as a key supporter of the school breakfast program.

 The mentors offered their expertise as state level advocates focused on anti-hunger and dairy initiatives. They discussed how food service directors can:

  •  Change the way they market school meals, and meals during summer and holiday breaks. For instance, take the word ‘free’ out of the marketing and instead say how it’s a complimentary meal.
  •  Change the dialogue of how school breakfast is discussed at the state level.
    •   Attend state association meetings with school system leaders
    •   Contribute to state level publications to show the impact of school breakfast, and
    •  Work with mentor organizations to connect with other school districts in your state to serve as a role model or learn from other districts on how they implement the program.
  •  Conduct a focus group with students to see what aspects of the program resonate with them.

 Stories from the Heart

Throughout the Community of Practice, current food service directors shared stories on the alternative school breakfast program through letters, videos, testimonials and parent surveys. Highlights included:  

  •  Chicago Public Schools and Newark Public Schools (NJ) had videos featuring students who made up their own songs on the impact of school breakfast.
  •  Spring Independent School District (TX) told one of their stories from the perspective of a favorite food item in Breakfast in the Classroom: little pancakes.
  •  In Newburgh Enlarged School District (NY), more than 50 parents filled out a survey which was promoted on social media and on the district’s website. Parents wrote of the impact that school breakfast had on their lives.
    •  One parent wrote: “I'll admit; I don't make the best food choices at times. I'm a full time student, with a deployed husband, and a newborn to care for. More often than not, by the end of my exhausting day, I'll give anything to my kindergartener just so we don't have to have a battle at the table. At least I know that she'll eat, and eat well when I don't have time to run to the supermarket for fresh fruits and veggies."

School district leaders discussed how they could use these stories to share with key stakeholders in their community like School Board members and how they could connect stories to the data collected relating to average daily participation and metrics relating to discipline and tardiness.

Community of Practice—More than a Meeting

 This Community of Practice was in part a celebration of the work that our 11 current participating districts have done over the past year and a half. It was also an opportunity for food service directors from past cohorts to reflect on how the program has evolved over the past five years. It was a chance for mentors to learn from school district leaders how they can best share their resources and expertise. By networking, sharing stories and problem solving through real life examples that occur on a daily basis, everyone went back to their district with new ideas on how to expand, sustain and improve their programs.  


Focus Groups Share Impact of AASA Alternative School Breakfast Program

(Alternative School Breakfast , Healthy Eating and Active Living , On The Road) Permanent link


 In late September and early October, members of AASA Children’s Programs traveled to four of our 11 current school breakfast districts—Spring Independent School District (TX), Meriden Public Schools (CT), Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY), and Hempstead Union Free School District (NY) to conduct focus groups with parents, administrators, and elementary, middle school and high school students.

With funding from the Walmart Foundation, AASA works with member districts to increase school breakfast participation using alternative breakfast strategies, such as Grab N Go, Breakfast in the Classroom and Second Chance Breakfast. The main goal of the initiative is to increase the number of low-income students who eat breakfast in these districts, thus helping to improve both health and education outcomes.


Hempstead Union Free District (NY) School Breakfast Team in Front of Grab N Go Vending Machine in Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School.


 “Before, about two years ago, when we had to pay for meals, my daughter said she felt sorry for a friend who couldn’t afford breakfast or lunch. I had to explain that she could no longer share with her friend. How can you tell a kid that? It’s good for kids to now know that they have the option [to eat at school].” –Parent from Spring Independent School District (TX) 

 Spring ISD Focus Group September 19th
The parent focus group had the opportunity to sample Spring ISD's School Breakfast offerings, including smoothies.

Parents in Spring Independent School District, expressed a sentiment shared across all the focus groups from students to administrators: since every child has the option to eat breakfast, the students seem happier, more alert, and ready to learn in the morning. Students are more focused on their schoolwork rather than on the fact that they are hungry. Parents, students and administrators stated that because of eating breakfast, children did better in school.

Some of the parents’ children were in schools that weren’t part of the AASA alternative school breakfast program. They were hearing the positive experiences about the program from other parents, and wanted it for their children. It was helpful for the Superintendent and Food Service Director to hear this feedback so they not only can continue this program, but expand it to as many schools as possible in their district.

“The lunch ladies are very nice and I appreciate everything they do. They do a good job because they are managing two lines at breakfast and lunch. I think that there should be a lunch ladies’ appreciation day.”-Middle School Student Meriden Public Schools (CT)

Meriden Public Schools (CT) Grab N Go Cart.

 Hearing from students was a highlight from these focus groups. They brought perspectives about nutrition that were comparable to that of a dietician or food service director. For instance, one seventh grader-with no personal dietary restrictions- from Meriden Public Schools, suggested that the school breakfast team add more variety of milk such as almond milk and lactose free milk. She also suggested including an extra breakfast cart for students with allergies to limit cross-contamination for those students with peanut, lactose and gluten allergies.

 Moreover, an elementary school student in Hempstead explained how she learned from the district’s Food Service Director that 20 grams or less of sugar are healthier options and should be considered to avoid getting cavities or having too many calories. The students also shared how while they would prefer hot food for breakfast (a preference shared across grade levels and in all the districts) they understood that when food cools down, there’s an increased risk of bacteria.

 Students appreciate the opportunity to socialize with friends during school breakfast time. They also found that hallways were less chaotic than when they only had the option to eat in the cafeteria. In middle and high schools, more children are waiting in line, eager to eat Grab N Go breakfast from a cart or vending machine. Middle school students in Meriden Public Schools discussed how the Grab N Go cart method is used so much, that they suggested that the school breakfast team should purchase an extra cart.

 Furthermore, in elementary schools, Breakfast in the Classroom helps children ease into their school day.

   “When breakfast was served in the cafeteria, [The school staff] used to tell us ‘hurry up, hurry up, be quiet, be quiet’. Now that it is eaten in the classroom, they encourage us to be more social,” observed an elementary school student in Hempstead Union Free District (NY).


 “Not as many students are coming [to the nurse’s office] because they are hungry. I used to give [students] crackers and juice- things like that-. I don’t do that as much anymore. I tell [the students] about the [school breakfast] vending machines and they use them.” – A middle school Nurse, Newburgh Enlarged School District (NY) 

 A look of horror crossed each of the four assistant principals’ faces at a middle school, when asked if they thought school breakfast should be continued or discontinued in Newburgh Enlarged School District. “Discontinue? No, we can’t do that,” said one assistant principal, “Taking away the breakfast program would be disruptive to the school and the kids will be agitated.”

 The assistant principals in Newburgh Enlarged School District (NY) shared how a local church served meals during out-of-school times such as summertime or during breaks. When pulling information for the summer meal program, the Food Service Director noted that many children had the same address -that of a hotel for the homeless. That helped the district know that there were more homeless children in their district than the 1,000 that they count.  

 As of the 2016-2017 school year, the Newburgh has district wide Community Eligibility, meaning all students receive free school breakfast and school lunch.

 “When we announced district wide Community Eligibility during ninth grade orientation, the parents were excited about free breakfast and lunch,” the assistant principals said.

 Other administrators discussed how they approached implementing the program.

 “I thought school breakfast was a great idea, but it was scary in the sense of ‘how are we going to do it,’” said a middle school principal in Meriden Public Schools (CT). “School breakfast started day one. We said ‘we are doing to attack it and do the best we can.’"


 It was apparent from the focus groups that breakfast affects students beyond academics and that these programs impacted the districts’ communities in a positive way.

 For Meriden, Public Schools (CT), establishing a community feel was essential to the success of their program. Everyone on staff from teachers to custodians to the principal to the library manager greets the children in the morning, encouraging them to take a breakfast. The school psychologist noted that “something we talked about in grad school is how kids who eat breakfast do better. It was great to see alternative school breakfast in action, after learning about its impact in school.”

  Sharon Gardner was encouraged to begin a summer meals program after learning about it from other participating school district leaders at AASA’s April 2016 Community of Practice .

“I was afraid of [implementing a summer meal programs] for a long time. I thought it would be a big, bad scary thing and it wasn’t,” said Hempstead Food Service Director Sharon Gardner.

 A Community of Practice is more than a meeting—it’s an opportunity to share best practices, brainstorm ideas to address challenges and share stories of how the program has impacted schools and community. AASA convened another Community of Practice in late October 2016. Insights from the focus groups inspired case studies, where food service directors and mentors from state level anti-hunger and dairy organizations worked together to develop strategies and plans on how to improve the alternative school breakfast programs. Learn more about the October 2016 Community of Practice from the Total Child blog.

Snapshot of Focus Group School Districts


Food Service Director
Free/ Reduced Meal Rate
Spring Independent School District     
Houston, TX
Rodney Watson
Shelly Copeland
Meriden Public Schools
Meriden, Conn.
Mark Benigni
Susan Maffe
Newburgh Enlarged City School District
Newburgh, NY
Roberto Padilla
Caitlin Lazarski
CEP District Wide
Hempstead Union Free District
Hempstead, NY
Fadhilika Atiba-Weza Sharon Gardner CEP District Wide

Youth and Superintendents Engage Through a Fuel Up to Play 60 & AASA Partnership

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living) Permanent link

 “Don’t underestimate your influence as student leaders to bring change in your schools.”  

 -Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY)

 Best Practices Fuel Up To Playlogo

  In Spring 2016, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassadors, from throughout the country were selected to participate in a Youth Engagement Network, where they connected with Superintendents and AASA staff. They learned effective ways to influence decision-makers in school districts on making healthy changes happen in their schools, by communicating their own personal stories.

“My goal, our goal is to support and enhance the health and wellbeing of students and families by improving the school environment, policies, and educational opportunities, explains Student Ambassador Zhela, a 9th grader from Arizona.

 “If kids are taught these healthy ways and activities at a young age, then they are more likely to grow with this knowledge and keep up with the healthy ways,” adds Student Ambassador Sydney, an 8th grader from New Hampshire.

As part of this pilot, AASA connected the Student Ambassadors to superintendents for an hour long call. During this call, the superintendents discussed their favorite part of their position—meeting with students, and their least favorite part of their position—the meetings.

The three superintendent participants were Dr. Scott Kizner, Superintendent of Harrisonburg City School District (VA), Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY), and Rodney Watson, Superintendent of Spring ISD (TX).

 When asked:

What do superintendents care most about when it comes to students?

 The superintendents responded:

 Superintendent Rodney Watson: “That we meet all kids’ social, emotional, and academic needs.”
Superintendent Scott Kizner: “That we keep kids safe.”
Superintendent Roberto Padilla: “That all students have access to a robust education, preparing them for like. We take that seriously.”

Furthermore, the superintendents offered advice to the students on how to approach and present an idea to them. Key pieces of advice included:

  •  Be sure to be objective and not emotional; do not be intimidated.
  • Make sure that your information is research-based.
  • Idea should be coherent between the presentation and the plan. The need and the idea must match and fill a gap.
  • If using Power Point, do not read word for word. Give descriptions so people will understand.
  • Do not underestimate your influence as a student leader – use your courage to create solutions

 One 8th grade Student Ambassador from Wisconsin, Andrew, shared how his conversation on school wellness went with his superintendent. “[The superintendent] said he actually got a degree as a physical education teacher, so wellness was very important to him,” said Andrew. “[The superintendent] also said he liked the way where our school was going with the events we were doing to improve physical activity. Of course I agreed. He shared a life story of his, how he always loved to be active when he was young.”

 To help other students feel comfortable reaching out to school administrators like Superintendents, the Student Ambassadors developed a guide to empower students to make presentations to their school. This guide offers advice on how to overcome obstacles when students tell their story such as picking out main points or avoid freezing up. Read the best practices guide.

 Learn more about the Youth Engagement Network through their final report.


A Call To Action: Superintendents Can Lead Movement for Healthier Schools

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post by AASA member Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC). She writes about her district's work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program. In this past year five schools in Anderson School District 4 has been on the Alliance's list of America's Healthiest Schools.

By Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC)  


 Anyone who has worked at, attended or even visited their child’s school knows that there are many people who are responsible for our children’s education. From the groundskeepers who keep our schools safe and clean, to the school nutrition professionals who keep our students nourished, to the teachers who work miracles in the classroom each and every day.

As superintendents, we have a unique vantage point to see how all these pieces come together, and to evaluate what’s working in individual schools and across our districts, at every grade level and in every unique community. And as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.  

 I believe it’s our responsibility as superintendents to educate the total child. And the best way to do that is by putting students’ basic needs first. When children are healthy and safe, they’re better able to listen in class, retain information and demonstrate their knowledge on tests.


 Nearly five years ago, Anderson School District 4 joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program to focus our wellness efforts, set goals and work strategically to achieve them. Thanks to support from our Healthy Schools Program Manager Beth Barry, every school in our district has met the Alliance’s healthy school benchmarks outlined in the Framework to earn the National Healthy Schools Award! This past year, five Anderson schools were named to the Alliance’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools.

Superintendent Joanne Avery with elementary students during a Walk to School event.


 I’m thrilled with what we’ve accomplished, and I’d love to see more administrators at the helm of district wellness efforts. After all, when district leaders make wellness a priority, principals, teachers and all of the other people who play a role in our children’s education follow suit, which can truly transform the culture of health in schools. Change starts at the top and I invite you to join me as a leader in this movement by:

  •  Role modeling healthy habits. Make sure your board and council meetings serve only foods and beverages that meet the same national nutrition standards you require your schools to meet. If you want teachers to add physical activity breaks into their lessons, show them how to make movement a part of every day and create time in the schedule for them to do so.
  •  Educating. At our core, we’re all educators. And educating the entire school about the importance of a healthy lifestyle should be part of every school’s curriculum. There are many ways to do this: Involve gardening in science lessons, focus on life-long fitness skills during physical education or offer a healthy cooking lesson for parents at back-to-school night.
  •  Building support. Incentivize the types of behavior you want to see students and staff exhibit at school. We’ve used punch cards to track healthy habits, prizes (such as a drawing to win a healthy classroom celebration), and partnerships with local businesses to provide rewards (such as gift cards for parents to purchase healthy food).

Don’t take my word for it. At Anderson 4, where we’ve put our focus on educating the total  child, we’ve seen our graduation rate improve every year since 2010. And in 2016, our high school students’ SAT scores were the highest they’d been in five years.


 We know that the success we’ve experienced is a result of many different individuals and initiatives working together toward a common goal. But we’re confident that our mission to put children’s health above all else is key to setting our students up for a lifetime of prosperity. Will you join Anderson 4 schools in the movement to make every school one of America’s Healthiest Schools?

Smart Ideas to Implement Smart Snacks

(Healthy Eating and Active Living) Permanent link

 A guest post by Jill Camber Davidson, RDN, CD, School Program Manager at Action for Healthy Kids, Chicago, IL. This post is about the Final Rule on Smart Snacks and the results of an Action for Healthy Kids/AASA Smart Snacks Survey.

The beginning of another school year is upon us. Starting the school year is more than teacher training days and student placements – it means much planning to provide our students healthy foods at school too. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 brought many changes to the food sold (and served) at schools last year. And last month, the release of the final rule for Smart Snacks* complements the meal choices already in place. This final rule affirms that all foods sold at school during the school day will be healthier choices for our students.

 Action for Healthy Kids and AASA, The Superintendent’s Association both agree that it’s important to engage the total child in an approach that extends beyond the cafeteria, resulting in a healthy school environment with students who are ready to learn.

 School leaders play a key part in establishing a whole school approach that impacts a safe, supportive and healthy school environment. In fact, AFHK and AASA, The Superintendent’s Association, surveyed the AASA membership in December 2015 about smart snacks attitudes and implementation needs in order to better understand your educational needs upon the release of the Smart Snacks final rule this year.

 AASA Member Smart Snack Survey Results

 How do school administrators feel about smart snacks?

  Over three-quarters (77%) of school leaders surveyed (n = 328 consider implementing policies and practices that meet or exceed Smart Snack standards to be an “important” or “high” priority. Additionally, two thirds of administrators agree the Smart Snack standards help balance the needs of schools while still ensuring that students have access to healthy foods and beverages during the day. Thus, school leaders agree on the need for Smart Snacks legislation and believe it should be a high priority; an important first step in implementing the new rule successfully. 

 However, the survey also showed that many competing priorities and school improvement directives often distract focus from health initiatives. Nearly half of administrators queried admitted that the implementation of robust wellness policies and practices is a lower priority than other areas of school improvement. Smart Snacks falls into this lower priority. There are also school leaders who are unclear on what the new standards mean, and how to determine which foods meet or don’t meet the standards. The survey results show that while school leaders see Smart Snacks as a high priority, there are many challenges to implementing the new rules successfully. We will be sharing ways to overcome several of these barriers in a webinar on September 28 at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT. The webinar will be hosted by AFHK and AASA, and include the perspectives from school leaders. Superintendent John Skretta of Norris School District (NE) and Superintendent Jeff Smith of Balsz School District (Ariz.) will be the featured guest speakers. They will discuss how they have implemented Smart Snacks into their own districts.  Find resources from the webinar here.

Change takes time, effort, support and resources. This webinar will also introduce parents, school staff and school leaders to other educational resources to help implement the Smart Snacks rule and support a healthy school environment. Make plans to attend this webinar as you continue to work towards making the healthy choice the easy choice for students.

Smart Ideas to Implement Smart Snacks in Schools
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 | 60 minutes
2:00 PM (ET), 1:00 PM (CT), 12:00 PM (MT), 11:00 AM (PT)


 *National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

AASA Children's Programs Out and About: Volunteering At the White House Kitchen Garden

(Healthy Eating and Active Living , On The Road) Permanent link

On Wednesday, July 12th, Kelly Beckwith and Rebecca Shaw of AASA’s Children’s Programs department volunteered at the White House Kitchen Garden alongside with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Park Service.

(Pictured L-R) Rebecca Shaw, Project Coordinator, AASA and Kelly Beckwith, Project Director, AASA at the White House Kitchen Garden

The garden is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to teach children about healthy eating and where their food comes from. As an Educational Leadership Partner of Let’s Move! Active Schools, AASA is a proponent of healthy eating and active living in schools to help combat childhood obesity

It was a privilege to have hands-on experience harvesting vegetables and learning how the food is grown and used in the White House Kitchen Garden. Most of the food is used for the First Family’s personal meals, though some is used in state dinners and at other events. Some of the vegetables are also taken to a local food bank, to prepare fresh, healthy meals for the homeless.


AASA is grateful to be a Let’s Move! partner and to share the message of healthy eating and active living with superintendents nationwide.

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Building a Healthier Future: Invest in Our Children. Stop Judging, Start Helping

(Healthy Eating and Active Living) Permanent link

By Rebecca Shaw, Project Coordinator

 "Those children are our children too. Compassion helps us stop judging and start helping."- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy


Sitting in a packed room among hundreds of representatives from organizations dedicated to ensuring that all children grow up to be a healthy weight, I was amazed about how an effort that began six years ago had blossomed into a powerful force, truly making a difference.

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is a national effort to make the healthy choice the easy choice for American families, to help end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Last week PHA hosted their annual Building a Healthier Future Summit.

From the start of the Summit, it was clear that the discussions focused around mobilizing resources to educate individuals from early childhood about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity and help ensure that everyone can be successful in this aspect of life. As Patricia Nece, a panel speaker who has lived with obesity her entire life stated, “We need to move away from blame and shame, and towards constructive solutions.” It was clear that a collaborative, supportive environment has facilitated the success of PHA.

During the opening and closing plenaries, a vast and varied number of organizations - from universities, to non-profits, to food product sponsors, to hospitals - were recognized for their work in their commitments to build a healthier future.

Every organization represented at this Summit made significant contributions to this work, often in ways that are not typically thought about. One breakout session addressed how convenience stores are working to influence consumers in making healthy choices at the checkout lines by replacing candy and soda with healthier options, like water and fruit, near the cash register.

Another breakout session on early childhood education for children highlighted how Pre-K has the highest rate of expulsion than all other grade levels. When children are engaged in physical activity from an early age, they find constructive ways to utilize their energy. There’s a link between health and education; they are not mutually exclusive.

For more than a decade, AASA has worked to address the childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on issues related to Healthy Eating and Active Living in schools. During the summit, AASA was recognized as an Educational Leadership Partner of Let’s Move! Active Schools,a sub-initiative of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

 logophasummit  PHASummitKB

As a representative of a new partner, I, along with my co-worker Kelly Beckwith (pictured above, representing AASA on stage), were able to network with other partners of this initiative. We were able to have deeper discussions with our peers who also focus on keeping kids healthy inside schools.

 “Our children are a reflection of our investment in them." -First Lady Michelle Obama

As First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage to deliver her keynote speech during the closing plenary, the room filled with anticipation. That Friday, the FDA finalized the new and improved Nutrition Facts label, to help give consumers the information they need to make healthy choices. “You'll no longer need a microscope to figure out whether the food is actually good for your kids,” said the First Lady.


The First Lady also told the audience that the work from each and every organization that works with the Partnership for Healthier America would be sustained long after her family leaves the White House. "I may not be First Lady next year, but I will always be here as a partner in this effort," she stated to a standing ovation.

Experiencing the commitment exuded in so many sectors and in such a variety of stakeholders from this summit has made me confident that this effort will be sustained for many years. I was honored to participate in this conference.