School wellness is a buzzing topic in the world of public health, as school lunch programs provide a wealth of opportunity for improving children’s health. Two Colorado School of Public Health alumni, Ms. Rachel Hurshman ’12 and Ms. Courtney Bell ’15, are working hard to find innovative ways to integrate healthier choices in school lunches. So much so in fact, that their district’s nutrition services (Greeley-Evans School District 6) has been recognized amongst the most innovative in the nation.
Ms. Hurshman and Ms. Bell are a part of the Greeley-Evans School District six nutrition services’ initiative to provide fresh and healthy lunches for students. This initiative began four years ago, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture changed their standards for school lunch. At that time, less than 20 percent of the food was prepared from scratch. Today, 75 percent of Greeley school breakfasts and lunches are made from scratch, with produce from local farms, and the amount of spending on food has stayed within the same budget as when the program started. Additionally, the food has a standard for taste, acknowledging that efforts are not likely to be well received if the food is not enjoyable for the kids.
Ms. Hurshman and Ms. Bell identify forward-thinking leadership, the return to scratch-cooking, and farm-to-school initiatives, as characteristics that are setting the Greeley-Evans School District apart from other school wellness programs.
As a career field, School Wellness is a collaborative endeavor – it requires partnerships with administrators, faculty members, parents, and students. School Wellness Coordination engenders exciting opportunities to oversee student and worksite wellness, work towards improving adherence to a district’s Wellness Policy, and to support wellness programming.
Ms. Hurshman and Ms. Bell got their start in the field through required practicum work for their MPH degree with Ms. Kathy Schlepp, the wellness coordinator for the Thompson School District. Program planning, implementation, and the development of community partnerships were identified as some of the most valuable skills gained from the MPH program.