Just a few weeks ago, my internship partner Kevin and I had the opportunity to visit the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia (DC) school system. We were able to work with the Wellness and Nutrition Services Division, getting a look into what they do in the schools and community based organizations to promote positive healthy behaviors in children and youth in DC. It was such a great experience where we learned so much about public policy, specifically the DC Healthy Schools Act.
In May of 2010, the DC Healthy Schools Act (HSA) was passed by the DC City Council. The legislation ensures that schools are a healthy place for all students. Children spend a vast majority of their day in a school-related environment, making it a great opportunity to intervene. The act includes provisions addressing school meals, farm to school, school gardens, local wellness policies, healthy vending, fundraising and prizes, physical activity, physical education, and health education. The Wellness and Nutrition Services Division has a Healthy Schools Act Initiative that was established as a component of the implementation of the HSA.
Almost four years have passed since the legislation was enacted, so the status of this is now able to be evaluated. Kevin and I had the opportunity last Monday to attend a conference at American University where they discussed the current status and future directions of the act. It was very interesting to see what progress has been made, but change does not happen overnight. There are so many details and factors that play into the outcomes and a joint effort needs to be made to achieve success. Washington, D.C. has become so proactive in the health of their youth and ventured into unchartered territory in the public policy arena. From their challenges and successes, this could be a call-to-action for school systems everywhere, where nutrition professionals, especially registered dietitians, can give their expertise and play a leading role. Let’s hope this becomes a wide-spread inspiration to better the health of our youth.
For more information on the DC Healthy Schools Act, visit: http://osse.dc.gov/publication/healthy-schools-act-legislation