A statewide School Wellness Award program in Michigan has energized school leaders to create healthier schools.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is sparking action and encouraging schools to create healthier environments through the statewide School Wellness Award Program. The competition is open to Michigan schools of any size, serving K-12 grade levels and features gold, silver, bronze, and honorable mention awards for creating healthier schools.
To compete for the higher level awards, a school’s Coordinated School Health Team must meet regularly and complete the Healthy School Action Tools (HSAT) online assessment. It is a customized Michigan-version of the CDC’s School Health Index.
As part of the HSAT process, the school health team develops an action plan using the school’s most significant needs as identified by the HSAT online assessment. Then, the school health team must make needed improvements as outlined in its action plan. The school health team completes an online award application that shows how the school implemented sustainable policy and environmental changes related to healthy eating, physical activity, and tobacco-free lifestyles. All schools must submit a success story to Michigan’s School Success Stories website to show achievements made in the past year.
Since its start in 2014, the Michigan’s School Wellness Award program has seen more participants each year. The competition had 18 winners in 2014, 24 winners in 2015, and 35 award-winning schools in 2016. Some of the initiatives launched that have won awards include:
- Providing free breakfast and encouraging students to join the morning walking club, which sponsors 10-minute walks in the hallways before classes start.
- Offering three lunch selections daily, one always being a salad, as well as introducing students to new foods.
- Replacing cookie and candy fundraisers with the sale of evergreen wreaths; offering healthy snacks at after-school activities, such as granola bars and unsalted popcorn; offering healthy snacks rather than cupcakes and sugary treats during classroom birthday parties.