20 OC campuses recognized as America’s Healthiest Schools

Silver and bronze awards listed in story

Twenty campuses in Orange County have been named among America’s Healthiest Schools after implementing strategies designed to boost nutrition and physical activity for students, families and staff.

Schools in the La Habra, Buena Park and Fullerton districts were announced Monday as silver and bronze award-winners in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, a national evidence-based initiative aimed at reducing childhood obesity rates and empowering kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits. In all, 461 schools from 26 states earned awards.

In the Fullerton School District, Pacific Drive School, Hermosa Drive Elementary and Richman Elementary achieved silver status; Commonwealth, Maple, Orangethorpe and Valencia Park elementary schools earned bronze, as did Nicolas Jr. High School.

A few miles away, the La Habra City School District’s Walnut Elementary School won a silver award, while Arbolita, El Cerrito, Ladera Palma, Las Lomas, Las Positas and Sierra Vista elementary schools secured bronze-level awards.

In the Buena Park School District, Beatty, Emery, Gilbert, Pendleton and Whitaker elementary schools took bronze awards.

“Now that exemplary school wellness programs have been developed and recognized, best practices can be shared and efforts can be duplicated across the entire county,” said Janis Price, program specialist in OCDE’s Health Sciences unit.

“Other Orange County schools are also developing policies, systems and environmental changes that enhance student health,” Price said. “We hope they will be inspired by this year’s awardees to participate in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program — not only to be nationally recognized, but to access resources and technical assistance to continue making progress.”

Founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation works with schools, companies, community organizations, healthcare professionals and families to transform the conditions and systems that lead to healthier kids.

The Healthy Schools Program specifically recognizes sites that meet or exceed federal standards for school meals and snacks, offer breakfast daily, implement district wellness policies and update their progress annually, and provide students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week and ensure physical activity throughout the school day.

Price said some of the local schools added opportunities for students to participate in physical activities before and after school. Other sites added breakfast programs, altered their lunch menus, rearranged their master schedules to put recess before lunch or developed teaching schedules to accommodate 100 minutes of P.E. for all students.

Walnut Elementary students line up for servings of fruit and vegetables
Students from Walnut Elementary in the La Habra City School District are encouraged to complete the rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables served by OCDE staff.

“All of these healthy improvements to the school environment were developed and implemented by School Site Wellness Committees, where parents, teachers, school administrators and community agencies took part in creating programs supported by the ‘Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child’ model,” Price said.

OCDE’s Health Sciences team supported schools by providing them with technical assistance. But campuses also benefited from funding and support from key partners, including St. Jude Medical Center, Orange County United Way, Kid Healthy and the Orange County Health Care Agency.

“There is a commitment in Orange County to use a collective-impact approach to addressing obesity and child health,” said OCDE Health Sciences Manager Dareen Khatib. “We have been very lucky to have the leadership of our community partners who understand the importance of investing in our students to improve their health and, in turn, their academic achievement.”

Any school can sign up to access Healthy Schools Program resources, tools and national experts at no cost. To learn more about the Alliance for a Healthier Generation or the Healthy Schools Program visit www.schools.healthiergeneration.org.