As the state budget situation worsens, school districts are cutting non-classroom programs. Many California districts have eliminated programs that address children’s physical and mental health issues. Fortunately for the Sunnyvale School District, El Camino Hospital District’s Community Benefit program is helping to address unmet health needs. Its grants fund several programs that help meet day-to-day medical needs, promote healthy diet and exercise habits, and support safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity.
Our September 2011 issue featured two of these programs in detail: Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), an on-site counseling program for students, and Playworks, a program that provides a full-time coach who develops games and sports programs for students, at recess and throughout the school day.
Another program is “5210” supported by El Camino Hospital District along with Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF). “5210” is designed to increase awareness among students and teachers of the importance of a healthy lifestyle that includes eating five fruits and vegetables daily (5), no more than two hours of screen time each day (2), at least one hour of physical activity (1), and consuming zero sugared beverages (0).
A number of activities engage students in adopting these behaviors. Lakewood Elementary just launched their 5210 program this year while Bishop Elementary and San Miguel Elementary are in their second year of the program. Brenda Guy, principal at San Miguel, has observed that students are making healthier choices at lunch and the District Food Service has made more healthy foods available at all Sunnyvale School District schools. At San Miguel, the 5210 program is extensive and involves families in “Cooking Matters” classes where families come to learn how to prepare healthy and delicious meals and they go home with a bag of groceries along with recipes to try at home.
Cooking Matters is a national program that relies on local sponsoring organizations. Last year, Fresh Approach (http://freshapproach.org/) ran and funded the program; this year, Three Squares (http://threesquaremeals.org/ ) steps up to the challenge. The program depends on volunteer nutritionists and chefs to teach the cooking classes and identifying volunteers has been one of the barriers to offering classes more widely. If you or anyone you know have connections to potential volunteers, please refer them to Three Squares.
All students at San Miguel complete daily logs where they keep track of their numbers: A) the number of servings of fruits and vegetables they consume; B) the number of hours of screen time a day they engage in; C) the number of hours of exercise they complete; and D) the number of sugary drinks they indulge in each day. Students who meet their 5210 goals are rewarded with a bracelet at San Miguel’s monthly assemblies. Students also participate in a poster contest where they are asked to illustrate their idea of 5210. Last year’s winning poster (above) has been made into a banner and is displayed at schools with the 5210 program this year.
“An important side benefit to all of these highly valued programs is that they provide more caring adult connections for our students, which research shows are critical to better development and academic achievement,” said Dr. Benjamin Picard, Superintendent of Schools, Sunnyvale School District. “This critical partnership with the El Camino Hospital District provides the resources needed to maintain them.”
“El Camino Hospital District views school districts as critical institutions for improving community health,” said Barbara Avery, Director, Community Benefit, for El Camino Hospital. “This major financial investment by the District provides the Sunnyvale School District with additional resources that allow them to address important but unmet needs.”
Article by Nina Wong-Dobkin, Contributor: Hatti Hamlin (El Camino Hospital)