Monday, October 28, 2019

How to Leave a Footprint in New York Communities

The 2019 Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Convening, Leaving a Footprint, Spreading Roots: Sustaining CHSC Activities into the Future, was held on September 10. Kelly Moltzen and Moria Byrne-Zaaloff from Bronx Health REACH and Claire Raffel from the Tisch Food Center at Teacher’s College met with CHSC grantees to discuss how all partners could work together to ensure that our school wellness initiatives are sustained across the state by supporting the WELL Campaign.

One of the goals of the WELL Campaign is to develop a New York State model wellness policy that can be shared with local school districts. The grantees also provided suggestions regarding what this state model should include such as: aligning systems of measuring data across federal, state and city health and education departments to achieve one collective impact; converting state data collection to an electronic system; better NY State Education Department (SED) and NYS Department of Health coordination; a state liaison in SED to support district wellness councils; more wellness tools and training for schools; and better systems for effectively monitoring all schools' successes/implementation of policies.

To lend your support for increased funding to the CHSC and WELL campaigns, please sign our petition.

Friday, October 25, 2019

September Coalition Meeting Addresses the Future of School Wellness

Left to right: Kelly Moltzen from Bronx Health REACH; Laura Raaen from Teachers College, Columbia University; Nicholas Buess from the Food Bank For NYC; Arlen Zamula from the NYC Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene – Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center; Alice Goodman from the NYC Department of Education – Office of School Wellness; Emma Murat of the Office of School Wellness; Karyn Kirschbaum from Western Suffolk BOCES and Moria Byrne-Zaaloff from Bronx Health REACH.

 The Bronx Health REACH  (BHR) Coalition made School Wellness their  priority in September. At our September coalition meeting, which, interestingly fell on the second day of the new school year, the meeting agenda focused on the status of state and federal programs supporting child nutrition and wellness and how to collectively advocate for continued funding and support for all New York State students. Putting the state of NYC wellness in context, Emma Murat of the Office of School Wellness gave an overview of NYC Department of Education’s wellness programming, specifically their multi-year physical and health education pilot programs.

Bronx Health REACH's Kelly Moltzen and Moria Byrne-Zaaloff highlighted BHR’s significant contributions to Bronx County schools over the past four years by providing technical assistance and professional development training to 70 schools and evaluation and resources to 73 schools of our over 90 partner schools to increase nutrition education and physical activity. On a city-wide level, Creating Healthy Schools and Communities funding allowed BHR to work with the NYC Department of Education to update its school wellness policy to meet federal policy standards.

Lining up federal and city wellness policies led the way to passing laws that support school wellness such as free lunch for all 1.1 million City public-school students in the five boroughs through the Lunch4learning  campaign. It also resulted in the PEWorks program providing funding for professional development training and the hiring of more PE teachers for NYC public schools through the PhysEd4All Campaign – two initiatives that Bronx Health REACH actively supported.

A panel of experts shared how wellness programming has made school environments healthier in NYC and across the state. The panel included: New York State Assemblyman Michael Benedetto; Nicholas Buess from the Food Bank For NYC; Alice Goodman from the NYC Department of Education – Office of School Wellness; Karyn Kirschbaum from Western Suffolk BOCES; Laura Raaen from Teachers College, Columbia University; and Arlen Zamula from the NYC Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene – Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center.

New York State Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Chairman of the Education Committee, spoke at Bronx Health REACH's September 6th Coalition meeting.

As Chairman of the Education Committee, Assemblyman Benedetto spoke of his commitment to ensuring that school wellness programming continue at current funding levels in New York State. As a steadfast champion for school wellness, he introduced Assembly Bill A7607. The bill would direct the Commissioner of Education to establish a New York state model wellness policy. This model policy would provide NYC and other school districts in the state with the state oversight and support necessary to effectively implement their district policies, hold districts accountable for tracking school building-level results and provide measurable data across the state. The Assemblyman recommitted to helping BHR ensure school wellness continues in the Bronx and across the state and agreed to meet with BHR and the WELL campaign committee to continue this conversation.

We encourage you to sign the petition to obtain state funding for a new version of the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program (2020-2025)  directed by the NYS Department of Health.

Assembly Bill 7607 and other New York State bills can only achieve so much without the federal law it is built on, namely the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which covers feeding programs for youth such as free breakfast and lunch in schools, afterschool snacks, summer meals, WIC and food pantries. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is the glue that makes many of the nutrition education and feeding programs that NYS and NYC offers, possible.

During the panel discussion, Nick Buess discussed the importance of passing a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act to ensure all schools can serve healthy, locally grown food that is made from scratch and provide comprehensive nutrition education courses. Coalition members were also asked to sign the online petition in support of the NYC Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization (NYC4CNR) in order to improve and strengthen federal child nutrition and school meal programs.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

CMSP 327 Students Illustrate How to Win Against Competitive Foods

Fifteen students from Comprehensive Model School Project-M.S. 327 participated in a five week course with Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) this summer sponsored by Bronx Health REACH. Susanna Arellano, a teaching artist at CUP, led students through an exploration of the power structures and systems within the NYC Department of Education and an individual school building that impact nutrition and wellness in NYC schools. The students illustrated the main themes of each lesson using art techniques such as print making, photography and infographics. Their art was used to create an educational booklet on how students can make healthy snack choices in schools.

They created a 16 page booklet, Snack Attack, How Can Students Make Healthy Snack Choices in Schools? The information in the booklet was informed by student research. Students took surveys of fellow students and community members to better understand what they consider to be healthy versus unhealthy foods, and which snack options should be available at school. They also photographed paper cut-outs of healthy food pasted onto bodega shelves next to junk food, showing what a healthy bodega would look like.

Students interviewed Stephen O'Brien, Director of the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Department of Education and Kelly Moltzen, Program Manager of the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Program at Bronx Health REACH to gain insight into where the food that is sold in schools comes from, how much does the food change between the farm and the student consumer, and who decides what foods get sold in schools.

“I would make sure that there are no copycat snacks [in schools]," said student Nikosi Whyte. "I would make the food healthier and unprocessed.” 

The booklet will be distributed to community schools in the South Bronx to promote healthy snacking in schools.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Year Two of Service Begins With A Summer Harvest and Cafeteria Improvement Plans

Adrianna gave a presentation at the FoodCorps National Orientation in Portland, Oregon. 

This post is written by Adriana Perez, our FoodCorps member who partners with the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/the Family School (PS443). Adriana is dedicating a second year of service to engaging students and teachers in creating a school wide culture of health through experiential learning in their school garden, cafeteria and classroom. 

I recently returned from FoodCorp’s National Orientation in Portland, Oregon, where I was able to take a deep dive into planning for my second year of service at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/The Family School (PS443) in the Bronx.

During the week-long orientation, I brainstormed with FoodCorps staff and Service Members from across the country, led a session on how to overcome challenging work relationships, renewed my energy and ambitions for the coming school year through project management workshops, and formed a new appreciation for all the work that I accomplished last year.

 This year, I will not only be working at the two schools, but I will be returning to school myself. I will be entering a Master’s program at New York University in Food Studies with a concentration in Food Policy and Advocacy. My courses will help me expand my knowledge on food system issues, increase my understanding of how food and cultures intersect and how to effectively advocate for food system change. My FoodCorps experience at PS457 and PS443 last year has deepened and solidified my belief that not only should healthy, sustainable food be available to every community, but that every community should have the opportunity to learn more about where food comes from, how to prepare it, and how to have a balanced relationship with food. Through my studies at NYU, I will have the knowledge to educate my school community in local food systems and policy, and train them to be school wellness champions.

This year, I have decided to focus on three areas of technical assistance:  garden program development, cafeteria renovation and professional development for teachers. Last year, I worked with the Wellness Council, students and teachers at PS457 and PS443 to rebuild the schools’ garden spaces. I learned how to navigate scheduling conflicts for garden classes and garden management support from students, staff and parents. This year, teachers will be able to schedule their classes on a regular basis to visit the gardens. Garden clubs can help plant, maintain and harvest gardens on their own school properties as well as the community garden, a garden managed by both schools. Once the vegetables and herbs are ready to harvest, parents will be able to pick up or harvest vegetables during dismissal.

Since summer harvesting was so successful at PS443/PS457, Adriana invited parents to pick up seasonal produce at dismissal during the first week of school. What a healthy way to start the new school year!

As my primary responsibility is to work at PS 457, the teachers will not only receive teaching assistance during classes in the garden, but I will also provide support in creating lessons and strategies so that food education can be incorporated into common core standards for every grade. My objective is to equip teachers with tools that will encourage healthy eating for their students while introducing new subject-specific concepts and reinforcing previous lessons.

Finally, my biggest ambition for the year is to work with the Wellness Councils, which now exist as two separate councils, to undertake cafeteria improvements. These changes can be as simple as streamlining the traffic flow on the lunch line or as complex as providing a public announcement system or purchasing new tables for the cafeteria. The Wellness Councils will help me create excitement and strengthen support and engagement from the administration and cafeteria staff as well as aides and parent volunteers managing students during lunch. My hope is that through these changes, all students will be able to have a more enjoyable cafeteria experience through creating excitement around the school food menu in school and greater efficiency in the cafeteria.

This year will be challenging, but I plan to rise to the occasion and hit the ground running with these goals clearly set out before me. I look forward to working with the teachers, meeting new staff, and collaborating more closely with the principles of PS457 and PS443, Ms. Febus and Ms. Penn.


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