Healthy Schools Act…finally!

The Committee on Government Operations and the Environment and the Committee of the DC Council recently passed a GREAT piece of legislation that has the potential to significantly impact children attending DC Public Schools and DC Public Charter Schools, their families as well as the education and healthcare systems. The full council will vote next week (May 4th).

I don’t have to lecture you on childhood obesity, the lack of physical activity of the current generation or the type of lunches provided by some schools in our nation. The Healthy Schools Act co-introduced by Mary Cheh and Vincent Gray is the type of legislation that promotes collective responsibility as well as addresses many problems plaguing communities across the country including obesity, environmental sustainability, viability of local farming, childhood hunger, quality of food, training in skilled trades, education for future industries.

Highlights include:

  • Healthy Schools Fund: details how costs will be covered including to defray costs to lower-income families (to include a 1 cent tax on sodas and other sugary drinks sold in the District…shared responsibility, I love it!)
  • Farm-to-school Program: food provided by local farmers with preference given to food grown in the District/MD/Va. as well as education/ technical assistance.
  • Physical and Health Education: encourages a total of 60 minutes of physical activity throughout a day (walking or biking to/from school for older students, incorporating movement in classrooms, active recess in addition to physical education class and athletic teams).
  • Environment: a school gardens program, recycling in schools, using farmers who engage in sustainable practices, etc.
  • Healthy Youth and Schools Commission: establish a body to advise the mayor and provide feedback on components of the bill- it will include students!
  • Health and Wellness: monitoring of health levels and profile of schools and students (includes development of a plan to establish and operate school health centers in public high schools on or before December 31, 2015).
  • School Nutrition: provides caloric, trans fat and sodium parameters for meals and provide disclosure on menus, offering of filtered water with meals, meeting special dietary needs and encouraging students to eat breakfast at school.

There are other public school systems that have passed similar legislation and I am hopeful that more are headed the same direction. Yes, it is a drastic shift, yes, it will take time and yes, it will require if not more- different- paperwork. But, the payoffs will be endless for our children, families and communities.

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