An effective school-wide wellness strategy permeates every aspect of school life – from the classroom to the cafeteria, from campus to neighborhood, and from student support services to the attendance office. It requires active involvement of all who have a stake in student wellbeing and academic success.
Whatever the name – wellness committee, council, task force – a diverse coalition of school and community stakeholders, champions, supporters, and implementers serves many important functions. The group may do the following:
- Establish a compelling vision for what wellness makes possible.
- Explore shared values and aspirations.
- Set actionable goals and objectives.
- Align resources and partnerships.
- Create performance measures and benchmarks.
- Evaluate progress.
- Communicate the group’s efforts to a broader public.
Diversity of membership on the team in role, gender, racial, and sexual identity can fuel broader community connections and resources and generates more innovation. Based on your needs and process, recruitment and vision setting can occur simultaneously, or one may precede the other.
A solid foundation starts with a strong team. Select the members of your school wellness team for their ability to influence, create, or change the policies, programs, practices and culture that will be necessary to achieve school-wide wellness. At a minimum, include representatives from the SBHC, school administration and staff, and the community at-large. SBHC staff can also integrate with similar established wellness infrastructures.
- Refer to Strategies for Developing a School Wellness Team to select team members.
- Identify passionate and qualified champions for student wellness across systems and sectors, where missions align.
- Recruit members annually to incorporate new energy and ideas.
TIP: Create a similar team at the district level to advocate for wellness strategies, such as policy and curriculum changes, that require district level support.
TIP: If your school already has a wellness team or coordination of services team in place, get involved.
The group should articulate a shared vision of what a school-wide wellness initiative makes possible for students and the school community. It should reflect the group’s values, a set of deeply held beliefs and behaviors that will guide the team’s work over time. Use the Vision Statement Tool to draft your vision statement.
Codify the authority and functions of the team with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or letter of agreement (LOA) with signatures from all parties, including the principal or superintendent. This agreement will establish the group’s authority and purpose, as well as document the commitment of school leaders. The agreement should:
- Identify your team’s capacity, resources, and skills. Use the Expertise Grid to identify these.
- Define the roles and responsibilities of each member.
- Determine if the team members need any additional training or support to perform their roles.
TIP: Conduct any training before the start of the school year so the team has all the skills and resources they need to hit the ground running when the busy school year begins.
TIP: Keep the team engaged throughout the year via bi-monthly scheduled meetings.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Child Nutrition, and WIC Reauthorization Act require every local educational agency participating in the National School Lunch Program or other child nutrition program to adopt a local school wellness policy. Wellness teams can play an active role in developing, adopting, and monitoring local school wellness policies. [iv]
Stories from the Field
At Turner Elementary in Albany, GA, the Hallways to Health Coordinator wanted to create wellness teams to establish student wellness policies at Turner and throughout the district.
The principal connected the coordinator with the district nutrition manager, who is responsible for overseeing USDA regulations in exchange for federal Free and Reduced Meals funding. Inspired and energized by their partnership, the eager duo soon recruited the superintendent, athletic director, curriculum coordinators, principals, and student school board representatives to form the district wellness committee.
Kylie Pybus speaks about the mental health task force and their role leading a suicide prevention program and training teachers.
[iv] Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Section 204: Local School Wellness Policies 5-Year Technical Assistance and Guidance Plan. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, with input from US Dept of Education, and DHHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Website. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/lwp5yrplan.pdf. July 2013. Accessed April 5, 2018.