Here are my tips for school administrators to improve the health and well-being of their students in 2022.
“Schools play an important role in promoting the health and safety of children and adolescents by helping them to establish lifelong health patterns.” – CDC
1) Gamify Physical Activity
One school I partner with was very creative with its P.E. program. They were able to set up obstacle courses with cones, jump ropes, and large foam blocks. Kids were having a blast running, jumping, and getting through it, at their own pace.
The P.E. department is a great place to bring creative energy to make physical activity fun and enjoyable.
Even as an adult I try to “gamify” my own exercise. It could be a jog through the city of Medellin where I try to take a “dance break” at occasional stoplights while listening to my favorite tunes.
How can your school make physical activity something that students look forward to?
2) Lunches Need To Be Nutritious
I was at a school and noticed that the lunch was:
Chips (in a bag), chili (in a vacuum-sealed cup), and some type of grated cheese in a bag. It was basically “chips and chili” and that was the “lunch” for hundreds of students that day.
Nothing was fresh. It was loaded with empty carbs and products loaded with chemicals and food stabilizers.
There are many, many roadblocks for public school lunches to have nutrition and a huge factor is the cost per student, especially for Tier 1 schools with Free and reduced lunches.
Here are some interesting facts:
“The price of a school lunch varies by the school district, but the national average in the 2015-2016 school year was $2.34 for elementary schools, $2.54 for middle schools, and $2.60 for high schools[i]. Eligible students may receive free or reduced-price ($0.40) lunches. – Source
If you only have $2.34 to spend on a meal per student, it’s difficult to make a meal from scratch unless you have some decent chefs in your kitchen. Most schools opt for convenience, and so the lunches are frozen and vacuum-sealed. If schools had meal plans that a chef could implement, then lunches could be made fresh every day. Cooking healthy foods isn’t hard, as my youtube channel has tons of free recipe tutorials
3) Encourage Healthy Literacy
The school day has time for math, reading, and history, but not much of a focus on health.
Nutrition can play a part in any science lab by teaching students about core concepts like:
Calories, and the law of thermodynamics. Students can learn about base metabolic needs and how when you consume a specific amount of calories, you can maintain your weight or have it go up or down depending on your goals.
Micronutrients. It’s not just the calories that are important to understand, but also the quality of the ingredients. Key nutrients like Vitamins A, B, C, D, and K found in fruits and vegetables can help your eyes, skin, heart, cells, immune system, and blood.
Fats, Carbs, and Proteins. Fats aren’t universally good or bad. Olive oil helps your body process nutrients (which is why we put oil-based salad dressings to have the mixed greens help get absorbed into your body). Trans fats are bad and Omega-3 Fats are good! It’s so important to teach kids about this part of science, and since they eat 3 times a day it’s very doable.
4) Provide Professional Development to Teachers Through Healthy Literacy
The CDC has these resources for educators here
There are free online courses and trainings that teachers can add to the school to teach about health in the classroom.
There’s no reason to invent the wheel when there is so much good information and lesson plans already available.
5) Empower students by teaching them to COOK healthy meals at schools.
Healthy literacy can start in the classroom and lead to the home kitchen. Schools play a key part during the development years of children, and you can use that time to teach them the fundamentals of healthy cooking to improve their life-long eating habits.
Hands-on cooking can come in the form of in-person or virtual cooking classes with LIFT Enrichment, and if you work at a school and want to bring our program to your school, go to www.liftenrichment.com click the button at the top and fill out the form so we can set up a time to chat and bring a FREE healthy culinary workshop to your school.
A student who learns to cook can live a long, healthy life and be a better learner in the classroom. Healthy students take less sick days and have more energy to pursue their dreams.
So if you are a school administrator, director of instruction, or business manager at a school, district, or college access program, let’s bring healthy culinary workshops to your students.