New Tool Helps Schools Track Physical Activity, Nutrition
North Carolina schools have a new way to track how they are doing in helping kids to eat better and be more physically active. The Successful Students Scorecard was launched this week to coincide with the start of school. The Scorecard is an online assessment tool to help schools measure their progress toward implementing Local Wellness Policy.
The scorecard is part of a program led by the N.C. Division of Public Health and N.C. Action for Healthy Kids, a state branch of the national nonprofit dedicated to improving school food and physical activity environments and their effect on kids’ health. The Successful Students Eat Smart and Move More program helps schools and school districts fully implement, monitor and evaluate their local wellness policies.
All 115 school districts in North Carolina are required by law to have a written Local Wellness Policy that addresses all foods available on the school campus – including foods and beverages available outside the cafeteria – as well as physical activity, nutrition education, and student wellness activities at the school. The policies vary across the state; some address only what the law requires, while more comprehensive policies include other provisions, such as staff wellness.
Although these policies are district-wide, each school is responsible for implementation. The new scorecard will help school staff and administrators see where they are in their effort to meet the requirements to provide healthy school lunches, as well as their progress in making foods all over campus healthier. It asks questions pertaining to foods and drinks sold in vending machines, as fundraisers, and in concession stands and meals served as part of school celebrations, as well as foods served in the cafeteria. The scorecard also provides feedback on steps taken to ensure that students get adequate amounts of physical activity while on campus and on how the policy is being monitored.
Any school that completes the scorecard will be designated as a Successful Students School to show that it is dedicated to improving its students’ health. Participating schools will receive a banner, certificate, and promotional materials.
“We find ourselves at a critical place with kids’ eating and physical activity habits,” said Kathy Andersen, co-chair of N.C. Action for Healthy Kids. “Our hope is that once schools receive the Successful Students School designation, they will use the feedback from the scorecard to continue to make positive changes in these areas. We have two and three times more overweight and obese kids in our state today than we did 20 years ago, and it’s not going to get better unless we all work together – families, schools, and communities – to make sure kids get plenty of activity and eat balanced diets.”
Data show that North Carolina children and youth are increasingly overweight and obese, have poor eating habits, and get too little activity. According to N.C. Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System 2006, one in four 5- to 11-year-olds and nearly one in three 12- to 18-year-olds are overweight or obese. Child Assessment and Monitoring Program 2006 data show that 50 percent of children eat one serving per day of French fries or potato chips, and nearly one in three eats two fast-food meals per week.
“Kids spend most of their waking hours at school,” said Heidi Carter, a Durham school board member who sits on the Successful Students Eat Smart and Move More advisory board. “They need to be active and eat well while they are there so they can feel good and do well in school. Studies show this to be true – it just makes sense. We all need to work to make sure this happens.”