Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the big deal? Why are Coordinated School Health and a wellness policy needed?
- Our students are facing increased pressures as never experienced before, which can negatively affect the different aspects of health such as physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
- One profound negative effect is in the area of obesity alone. Obesity is increasing rapidly in the United States, affecting adults, children, and people of all races, ethnicities, and income levels.
- Since 1980, the percentage of overweight children ages 6 to 11 has doubled, and the rate of overweight adolescents ages 12 to 19 has tripled. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term severe health impacts.
- In some communities, almost half of pediatric diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, once believed to affect only adults. Other health issues once viewed as adult-only problems currently affecting children include high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. All of these are linked to the obesity issue.
- In one large study, 61% of overweight 5-to 10-year-olds already had risk factors for heart disease, and 26% had two or more risk factors for the disease.
- Overweight children have a greater risk of social and psychological problems such as discrimination and poor self-esteem.
- Overweight children have a 70% chance of being overweight as adults – facing higher risks for many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and several types of cancers.
- The costs of treating obesity-related diseases are staggering and rising rapidly. Direct health costs rose from $52 billion in 1995 to $75 billion in 2003.
- Good eating habits and regular physical activity are critical for maintaining a healthy weight. Unfortunately, less than 25% of adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables each day. More than a third of students in grades 9–12 do not regularly engage in vigorous physical activity.
Q. But why public schools?
- Reversing the obesity epidemic requires a long-term, well-coordinated approach to reach young people where they live, learn, and play. Schools have a big part to play. Working with other public, voluntary, and private sector organizations, and schools, can play a critical role in reshaping social and physical environments and providing information, tools, and practical strategies to help students adopt healthy lifestyles.
- More than 95% of young people are enrolled in schools.
- Students have the opportunity to eat a large portion of their daily food intake and to be physically active at school.
- Schools are ideal for teaching young people how to adopt and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
- Research has shown that well-designed, well-implemented school programs can effectively promote physical activity and healthy eating.
- Emerging research documents the connections between physical activity, good nutrition, physical education and nutrition programs, and academic performance.
Q. Is the wellness policy mandatory? Who says?
- The Federal School Nutritional Reauthorization Act of 2005 mandated that all school systems have a wellness policy in place by July 2006. The State of Tennessee took it further by passing a comprehensive Nutrition Bill TCA 49-6-2307 changing the nutritional standards for all schools (WCS made the changes in 2005) and by passing a Physical Activity Bill which requires all public school system students to have 90 minutes of physical activity a week. (Even though below national recommendations and mandated without funding, the intent is good and moves everyone in the right direction).
- The State of Tennessee also passed TCA 49-1-1002, the Coordinated School Health Improvement Act, which states local school systems will initiate and develop the Center of Disease Control’s eight-component model of Coordinated School Health. School systems are expected to be in full compliance, and all this entails within five to seven years of initiating Coordinated School Health into their system.
Q. What if we choose not to participate?
- Our district would be eliminated from the receiving reimbursement funds from the USDA…federal funding would be reduced.
Q. How are our cafeteria products affected?
- Drink sizes, no whole milk, sugar content, sodium content, fat content of all foods, menu items as well as ala carte restrictions.
- School menus are developed by the Child Nutrition Managers and Central Office staff. Menus are nutritionally analyzed by Registered Dietitian Consultants. Each school cafeteria will offer the traditional lunch pattern, and follows the current food pyramid guidelines, as well as options of salads or sack lunches.
- Foods whose nutritional values were once questioned are now in line with the USDA minimum requirements. This is true of all foods in terms of ingredients and cooking processes. For example, our pizza has a whole grain crust, low fat cheese and lower sodium content. Thus in relation to nutrition and healthy food choices, pizza can be a good food choice.
Q. What about foods brought into the schools?
- It is suggested that healthy items be used. The cafeteria can provide foods that meet all nutrition requirements, such as 1 oz. cookies, low sodium pizza for pizza parties etc.
Q. What about fundraisers?
- It is suggested fundraising ideas be something other than food. Your school nutrition department has a list of fundraiser ideas.
Q. How will Coordinated School Health be implemented?
- A Coordinated School Health Coordinator oversees the program for Maury County Public Schools. The coordinator works with the Maury County Health Council as well as a school administrative staff health council and each school will have a school health team that will assess its health status utilizing the School Health Index self-assessment and planning guide. This allows schools to design a school health program unique to their situation and the best for them. This is a huge initiative and will take a collaborative effort of all MCPS stakeholders.