Norma Candelaria

A healthy school can help combat the rising childhood obesity and diabetes rates in the United States. But is your child’s school healthy? What qualities make a school healthy?

The Cooper Institute and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas have parntered with the Texas Education Agency to establish criteria for the Healthy Zone School Recognition Program1. The program recognizes schools that are champions in health, nutrition, physical education, and parent/community involvement and assist schools that wish to become champions in these areas. The list below includes attributes necessary to be a Healthy Zone School.

Provides quality physical education criteria that is largely based on information from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education2 by:
- Providing age and developmentally appropriate instruction and activities
- Following a curriculum in which knowledge and skills progress each year
- Requiring staff training
- Conducting yearly fitness assessments
- Encouraging the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (60 minutes per day)
- Offering a safe (not overcrowded/proper teacher to student ratio) and positive learning environment

Provides plenty of opportunities for children to participate in physical activity including such things as:
- In-school activity breaks and recess
- Before and after-school activity programs
- Interscholastic and intramural sports activity promotions

Promotes healthy eating3, 4 by:
- Providing a clean eating environment with nutrition information about school menu items.
- Including foods with higher nutritional values, such as:
Whole grains
Non or low-fat dairy products
100% fruit juice
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Food high in fiber, low in sodium, and with no sugar added
- Using a cafeteria layout that promotes healthy eating behaviors, by:
- Placing healthy options at the beginning and end of the lunch line
- Using smaller bowls and plates
- Placing sweets behind other healthy options
- Not offering low-nutrient, energy-dense foods a la carte or in vending machine.
- Giving students enough time to eat breakfast and/or lunch.

Establishes a School Health Advisory Committee that consists of parents, community members, students, and staff that work together to improve the health of the school through a coordinated school health program.

How many of the characteristics listed above does your school have?

To be a healthy school, your school should strive to meet these standards. If your school is not meeting the standards, take an active role by encouraging your administration and PTOs to help establish healthier school environments. Just helping create awareness is a great first step!

Besides raising awareness, you can easily start making a difference in regards to opportunities for physical activity and nutrition. Start making a difference with what you pack in your child’s lunch or send to class gatherings. Then think of the ways you can offer more opportunities for activity. Share what you are doing to make a difference for kids on our Facebook page or on the Healthy Zone School web site.

Then when you see all of the above criteria in place at your school, encourage the health team to apply for the Healthy Zone School Recognition Program which is available to all schools in Dallas, Collin, Rockwall, and southern Denton counties. The program was launched in March of 2011 with the announcement of Burks Elementary in McKinney, Texas as its first Healthy Zone School.

More important than recognition, we are asking you to be a part of the change in your community. Even the simple things like taking a walk with your children or teaching them to play Rock, Paper, Scissors using their bodies to make each symbol can spark a healthy change. You never know what will excite a kid to be healthier.

1. The Cooper Institute & Texas Education Agency. (2010). Healthy Zone School Recognition Program Application. Retrieved from

2. National Association for Sport and Physical Education (2004). Moving Into the future: National standards for physical education. NASPE Publications: Reston, VA.

3. American Dietetic Association (2010). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Local Support for Nutrition Integrity in Schools, 110, 1244-1254.
4Wansink, B. & Dyson, J.S. (2010). From mindless eating to mindless eating better. Physiology & Behavior, 100(5), 454-463.

Article retrieved from .

No Comments. Login or Signup to be first.