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Brian Sarvis: Local Schools Helping Kids Get Healthy

The Santa Barbara districts have already made big strides in promoting wellness

We are concerned about the health of our children: 26 percent of our students are overweight, and we need to change it.

The Santa Barbara School Districts adopted a new wellness policy three years ago. The policy addressed three areas: nutrition, physical activity and health education.

Our districts are committed to providing an environment of healthy nutrition and physical activity for our students, and our schools are in the process of assessing the implementation of our policies and goals, with the assistance of the districts’ Wellness Council.

We support a healthy, nutritious environment in several ways. All school cafeterias offer healthy options for school breakfast and lunch. We strive to serve only the most wholesome, pure, fresh foods possible in all of our school cafeterias. We use source local, seasonal produce from our own community, and we keep the practice of sustainability at the forefront of our mission.

Our nutrition services director, Nancy Weiss, has done much to improve the quality of our meals and healthy choices. We have requested that parents send water, milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices to school with their child, and are considering banning high-caffeine drinks. Our fundraisers should not include candy, cookie dough or fast-food sales. Classroom parties have been limited to one each month, and foods brought to school should be fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Our policy prohibits food for classroom rewards. We also limit unhealthy food choices in student stores and vending machines throughout the school day.

The Santa Barbara School Districts’ schools support fitness and physical activity for all students. All physical education policy goals ensure that students in grades pre-K through 12th grade meet the state-mandated time requirements for physical education. Board policy prohibits using or withholding physical activity as discipline. At the beginning of the school year, we reached out to the parents to encourage families to promote health with regular physical activities outside of school.

The Wellness Council is working hard to promote school and home environments where a healthy lifestyle is easy to practice and is modeled by adults. As parents, we can learn about and be great examples of living healthy lives. We know a child’s success in school depends on being well-nourished and free of health problems.

Our desire is for all students enrolled in school to have their needs met, to be healthy and to be ready to learn.

— Brian Sarvis is superintendent of the Santa Barbara School Districts.

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