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Raising the Bar: From Healthy Schools to Healthy Districts

Posted by Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017
Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen
Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit, where I met several inspiring school wellness champions who were eager to share their stories of success.  In today’s installment in our Cafeteria Stories series, Kimberly Norton, a principal of one of the schools honored at that event, shares some of her school’s award winning strategies for a healthier environment that kids truly enjoy.

By: Kimberly Norton, Principal, Northeast Elementary Magnet School

A few weeks ago, I attended the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. to receive the National Healthy Schools Gold Award for my school, Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois. The Leaders Summit brought together school leaders like me, along with business executives and community champions to celebrate our success in building healthier environments where our kids can thrive.

At Northeast, we were able to earn Gold by setting clear guidelines about healthy living at school using the Alliance’s Framework of Best Practices and by adhering to national nutrition standards including the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School with help from the Alliance’s Smart Snacks Product Calculator. We also offer plenty of opportunities for students and staff to be physically active and involve our parents to ensure that our healthy habits are reinforced when kids leave the school campus. Northeast students snack on fresh fruit with yogurt dip or raw vegetables with fat-free dressing. For classroom celebrations, parents make fruit kabobs or tie plastic baggies of grapes to make butterflies (a favorite with our students!).

While the Leaders Summit weekend was full of success stories like ours, I was especially moved by my fellow Gold-level school Principal Jean McTavish of Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School in New York. She spoke about the need to continue to try new things and to expand our efforts into the community, which she does by teaching spin classes that are open to community members as well as students.

The excitement from the Summit and Principal McTavish’s words stayed with me as I returned to my home district. I know now that there is more that we can do. We are the only Gold-level school in the Danville Community Consolidated School District, and while our eight other schools have been incredibly supportive of our efforts, we can do more to encourage these schools to make incremental changes towards creating healthier environments as well.

The Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program has been—and will continue to be—an integral partner to our success. The Program encouraged us to bring together our food service director, physical education teacher, school nurse, and educators to follow the Framework, supported by innovative tools and resources on the Healthy Schools Program website. I am now motivated by the words of my peers and the support of the Alliance to encourage other school champions in Danville to join us in giving our kids the best start in life that we can.

Learn more about joining the Healthy Schools Program and our work at Northeast Elementary Magnet School. You, too, can join the effort to bring healthy changes to your school and community!

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition