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.