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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bronx Health REACH Helps Schools Meet Federal Mandate with a New Professional Development Course

Last summer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) passed a regulation requiring all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program or other federal Child Nutrition programs establish a local school wellness policy.

Bronx Health REACH (BHR) understands that developing a wellness council alone is a challenging process — on top of everything else required of teachers and administrators throughout the year. BHR is making it easier than ever to reach wellness goals in school by offering a three-hour professional development course that helps the designated wellness representative learn all they need to know.

BHR will provide school wellness leaders with the skills, strategies, and knowledge to build wellness policies. The training, "Beyond the Champion: Laying the Foundation for a Successful Wellness Council and Healthier Culture," helps the school community understand the building blocks necessary for a successful wellness council. This training explains how to navigate the current federal school nutrition policies, implement sustainable school wellness policies that fit the school's culture and needs, and promote a consistent message about good nutrition and healthy eating beyond the cafeteria to include beverage and food marketing, healthy celebrations and fundraisers. The training also promotes non-food rewards.

At the end of the training, participants will leave with a wellness policy council toolkit with worksheets, resources and best practices for policy council development, policy writing, revising and implementation, and monitoring/evaluation of policies.

The training will be held on June 8th in the morning at P.S. 294 for all teachers and school nurses in Districts 7, 8, 9, & 12. Parent Coordinators and other school staff who intend to manage the wellness council are encouraged to attend. Breakfast and lunch are provided.

Click to RSVP for the Laying the Foundation for a Successful Wellness Council & Healthier School Culture seminar to be held on Thursday, June 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

A second training in Nutrition Education is offered in the afternoon for all participants. The course, "Integrating Nutrition Education and Food Literacy into the Classroom" is led by Marissa Burgermaster, PhD, MAEd, an accomplished nutrition education curriculum expert. In this course, Marissa teaches participants how to incorporate nutrition and food literacy into lessons that motivate students to adopt healthier eating habits. Participants will leave the course with a nutrition education toolkit and plenty of activities and lesson plans to adopt for classroom use.

Click to RSVP for the  Integrating Nutrition Education and Food Literacy Into the Classroom seminar to be held on Thursday, June 8 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bronx Health REACH Nutrition and Fitness for Schools Workgroup Hosts Forum on Lead in School Water

On April 24th, more than forty teachers, parents, staff from community-based organizations and students came to together to learn about the status of lead contamination in school water.  A teacher from High Bridge Green Middle School brought one of her classes that is learning about lead contamination and how it is affecting their school. Speakers included Christine Appah, Senior Staff Attorney of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and Dr. Michael Weinstein, a professor at NYU Department of Population Health. Representatives from the Department of Health and the Department of Education were also there to answer questions from the audience during a Q & A session. Audience members had the opportunity to share their most pressing concerns about the health impact of lead contamination on the school community and the process for testing and remediation.

During their discussion, the speakers summarized the issue of lead contamination in New York City schools and the potential health concerns. Christine Appah explained that the New York State Safe Drinking Water Law passed in Fall 2016, ensures all schools follow the same testing protocol and timeline. Dr. Weitzman pointed out that “while any level of lead in the water is considered bad from a public health perspective, the level of lead in the water is not at a level comparable to the levels reported in Flint, Michigan."

The Department of Education’s Operations Department provided details on the robust protocol for testing and remediation that they manage in cooperation with Office of Facilities/DOE, NYC School Construction Authority, consultants from the Department of Health, and an external laboratory. While there is no set timeline for remediation, they don’t believe it would take more than a year. The Healthy Homes/Department of Health representative advised the audience that a good practical step to take to lower lead consumption similar to the advice they give to people for water consumption at home is to let the tap water/water fountain run for one minute before using it, especially if it hadn't been run for a few hours. An important fact that was stressed is that boiling water does not get rid of lead.

Workgroup members and the audience stressed the importance of a larger community wide communications campaign on the lead testing and remediation process for schools.

For more information on lead contamination in water,  read the Department of Health’s handout.

Friday, April 28, 2017

PS 443 Students Offer a Heart-Healthy Approach to Fundraising

Family School PS 443 Valentine’s Day healthy fundraiser successfully raised $56 and, more importantly, had 60 students and several teachers make healthy food choices that day. When Cara Plott, a Food Corps member working at the school, first proposed the healthy fundraiser idea to the student council leaders this past January, the students were very enthusiastic and supportive. Four students on the student council organized and promoted the event with the help of Kerryann Torres, the School Counselor and with assistance from Cara.

For some people, the word “fundraiser” may be synonymous with a cornucopia of sugary, unhealthy foods, but it doesn’t have to be this way! The key to a successful fundraiser is to sell a product that people really want to buy. As the students thought about what healthy items they wanted to provide at the fundraiser, they sought the advice of a teacher, Isabel Gonzalez who brought in fruits instead of candy as a reward for her class one day which was enthusiastically received by her students.

The students decided to present the healthy products in a colorful and engaging way, and packaged the fruits in heart-strewn bags with clever Valentine’s Day puns, such as “You are the Raisin I’m smiling.” Also, the Family School/PS 443 created colorful posters promoting the healthy fundraiser and the teachers overwhelmingly supported the idea. The student council members were thrilled that they made so much money by selling healthy snacks, and plan to replicate this activity at a future fundraiser.

"The event was truly a great experience,” said Kerryann Torres. “The healthy heart fundraiser really helped our kids see that we do not always have to give unhealthy snacks as treats or gifts for occasions such as Valentine's Day. The students were really excited to gift fruits such as apples and oranges. I was especially surprised at the number of children who wanted to buy craisins and raisins! There is so much more than what you see in the corner store and I am glad the healthy heart fundraiser was able to expose our kids to healthy snacks."

Healthy fundraisers, such as this one, will help the Family School/PS 443 fully implement its wellness policy, which does not permit the consumption of unhealthy snacks during the school day. By surrounding students with healthy choices during lunch, snack time, and at special events, students receive a consistent message that healthy foods are an all-around good thing, which encourages them to make more healthful choices in the future.

Monday, April 10, 2017

REACH Grantees Tell Senator Gillibrand’s Staff about Obamacare’s Other Benefits

On Friday, March 17th the Bronx Health REACH Coalition members from Walker Memorial Baptist Church, Church of God of Prophecy, and Christ the King Catholic Church, and representatives from the two other New York REACH grantees, Bronx Community Health Network and New York University School of Medicine REACH FAR project met and spoke with staff members from Senator Kristen Gillibrand's office to showcase the work REACH grantees are doing in several NYC communities. We felt it important to let the Senator know about the community transformation effect of REACH and that support for it comes out of the Prevention Fund in the ACA.

While the staff of the three REACH grantees spoke well of our respective work, it was the testimonials of the community residents present that illustrated the changes happening in the community. Sandra Jenkins, representing Church of God of Prophecy, shared the experience that at past church events soda would always be one of the first things consumed. But over the past year she has noticed that it’s now water that’s consumed first, leaving the soda virtually untouched. Flora Goldston, representing Walker Memorial Baptist Church, shared that there are now many parishioners at her church who are exercising more, visiting farmers markets, having their blood pressure checked. Bronx Health REACH is grateful to Senator Gillibrand’s staff for spending almost 2 hours with the group, learning of the work being done and its impact on the lives of community residents. We hope that with this information the senator will become a huge champion of REACH in the US Senate.