July 10, 2014

Howard County School Wellness Policy Gets Top National Ranking

HoCo_WellnessPolicy_Infographic_8 5x11poster_FINAL copyThe school wellness policy developed by the Howard County Board of Education was ranked among the best in the nation, according to a recent evaluation by the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The recently revised policy, which aims to promote the health of Howard County’s nearly 52,000 students, was assessed for the Horizon Foundation, a Howard County philanthropy focused on public health.

“As educators, our responsibility to our students extends beyond academic development to include their physical and emotional development,” said Howard County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Renee Foose. “By adopting these policy changes, we will improve the health and wellbeing of our students for generations to come.”

According to the Rudd Center’s WellSAT scoring system, HCPSS’s policy earned particularly high ratings for comprehensiveness, garnering 95 points out of a possible 100, and its strength score was also near the top at 83 out of 100. The statewide averages for comprehensiveness and strength are 57/100 and 28/100, respectively. HCPSS’s policy also scored particularly high in the areas of nutritional standards for school meals and competitive foods and for its evaluation components.

“The Howard County school wellness policy is one of the very best that I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. “The nutrition sections in particular will serve as a model for other districts around the country.”

The Horizon Foundation, which worked with together with community partners and members of the Board of Education and HCPSS staff on the new policy, applauds its adoption.

“Howard County children will greatly benefit as a result of these new wellness standards,” said Nicolette Highsmith Vernick, President and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “School is where kids spend the majority of their time, away from their parents’ watchful eyes and guidance. By teaching children the benefits of making smarter nutritional choices when it’s their own responsibility to do so, we’re instilling behaviors that will help them lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

The Horizon Foundation and several community partners launched Howard County Unsweetened in December 2012 to make healthy beverage options easy to find and choose for everyone, especially children. A centerpiece of the effort is the Better Beverage Finder, which provides a searchable database of hundreds of healthy drink options and locations where they can be found. The campaign’s messages have been taken to county schools, parks, libraries, and everywhere people live, learn, work or play.

Healthy Howard, a nonprofit organization that runs several public health initiatives in Howard County, has already certified 65 schools in the community as part of its “Healthy Schools” program, and the school system’s wellness policy changes build on the success of this program.

“Healthy Howard congratulates HCPSS on the national recognition of their Wellness Through Nutrition and Physical Activity policy,” said Christine Hall, Executive Director of Healthy Howard. “The combination of policies such as this, along with our Healthy Schools program in partnership with HCPSS, are vital to making healthy options and choices the default for Howard County students, as well as their families. We look forward to continuing to partner with HCPSS to ensure that our world-class schools have a world-class health and wellness policy.”