Letter from CEO

Dear Friends,

What a year it has been. In the wake of a global pandemic, and facing increased systemic inequities, Healthier Generation’s decades-long mission increased in relevance with unparalleled demand from our partner schools, communities, and families to support the physical, mental, and social-emotional needs of our nation. Despite these ongoing challenges, Healthier Generation, alongside many of you, made remarkable strides in advancing whole child health.

This year’s annual impact report showcases our progress and points of pride – while highlighting how we connected with our stakeholders to create meaningful experiences, and a lasting impact in children’s health. This is “The Healthier Generation Experience.” Throughout this report, I hope you enjoy reading, watching, and listening to how this experience played out with our partners – wherever children live, learn, and play.

There were countless Healthier Generation experiences to celebrate over the past year. Namely, we announced our most recent list of America’s Healthiest Schools. Over 400 schools across the country received an award for their commitment to bolstering the physical, mental, and social-emotional health of students, educators, and families. We expanded our award program to honor schools that implemented best practices in up to nine topic areas ranging from improving nutrition and food access to implementing tobacco/vape-free campuses. The evolution of America’s Healthiest Schools is a perfect example of how our approach continues to be one that meets communities where they are, offered with flexibility and delivered with care.

To help us accelerate our efforts to advance equitable whole child health, we announced new board and executive leadership -- including Healthier Generation's first-ever chief health equity officer Cornell Wright. Understanding active kids learn better, we welcomed a new national program, The Walking Classroom, to the Healthier Generation family to expand our collective impact in health and academic achievement.

It is also important to celebrate the people and organizations that support our efforts to advance equitable whole child health and our vision of a world where our children live healthier lives. This year, we received our most significant gift in Healthier Generation history from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Her donation, alongside the continued support of organizations like the CVS Health Foundation, Harmony SEL at National University, Kaiser Permanente, and Kohl’s, enables us to continue our march toward change in whole child health.

I am sincerely proud of what we accomplished together to ensure a healthier generation today and tomorrow. This report is a celebration of you and a reflection of your support and commitment.

Thank you for another incredible year!

With gratitude,
Kathy Higgins, Healthier Generation CEO

Healthy and Ready to Succeed

Students at Burtonsville Elementary in Montgomery County, MD, one of America’s Healthiest Schools, harvest the bounty from their school garden.

Connecting Communities Through Innovations in Health

Connecting with communities, health champions, and organizations is vital to Healthier Generation’s innovation and impact. Over the past year, we created resources that bring families together around the dinner table and encouraged caregivers to prioritize their health for the sake of loved ones. As a result, we expanded our capacity to make meaningful connections for the benefit of youth, families, and communities everywhere.

Soaring Above Obstacles

Award-winning Paralympic athlete Lex Gillette is building a legacy that Healthier Generation is proud to be a part of. Recently, Lex shared his insights at our premier virtual event, Girls in Motion, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the future of gender and health equity in sports and physical activity.

For Lex, sports are about more than achievement and winning medals. “Our responsibility is to break down the obstacles in our path and reduce the issues that might impede the progress of those coming after us,” he says. “Healthier Generation also sees the bigger picture. They’re building a legacy as well, ensuring that generations to come will have a healthier lifestyle by breaking down systems and perceptions that exist [about who is allowed to participate in sports and who is not] in and around our country. I’m a long jumper for Team USA, and my goal is to always fly as far as I can. Healthier Generation is equipping [children] with the necessary tools and resources, so that they too can soar above life’s challenges and fly as far as they can.”

Paralympic athlete Lex Gillette shares how his mother was his role model for overcoming obstacles and leading a healthy lifestyle for future generations to emulate.

Putting Our Best Fruit Forward

Eating a variety of fruits supports a healthy body and mind. For National Nutrition Month, Healthier Generation teamed up with That’s it. on a digital campaign to help families and educators understand the critical role that fruit plays in children’s nutrition and identify appealing new varieties to try.

Our resource hub features a fun quiz that matches children with a new “Best Fruit Forever” to encourage taste-testing and exploration. For parents and caregivers, we created a buyer’s guide with simple shopping tips to select the best fruit options for their family, routine, and budget. We also shared resources, including gardening tips and educational videos from Smart Apple Academy, to help families learn more about different varieties of fruits and their health benefits.

The Best Fruit Forever quiz promoted colorful options like cherries, mango, and figs.

Making Way for Better Health

One in five adults in the U.S. reported putting off their healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet with our competing responsibilities at home and in our communities, it can be difficult to prioritize preventive care and regular screenings critical to helping diagnose and treat serious conditions early.

In an effort to encourage caregivers to take care of themselves so that they can show up for their loved one, Labcorp and Healthier Generation created the Make Way for Better Pledge, a commitment to reprioritize health and catch up on routine preventive healthcare. Those who signed the pledge received a personalized health checklist and routine screening information to help them meet their goals. In addition, every signed pledge supported Healthier Generation’s efforts including:

  • Ensuring that all K-12 students have access to nutritious school meals
  • Providing mental health resources for young people and families
  • Protecting children from preventable diseases through routine vaccinations
  • Increasing opportunities for safe physical activity at home and in the community
The Make Way for Better Pledge is a commitment to take an active role in your healthcare.

Supporting Nutrition Access

Nutritious meals are critical to children’s health and development. This year, Healthier Generation improved food access for families and communities through national and local initiatives.

In 2022 we wrapped up year one of our Full Futures school nutrition partnership with Campbell Soup Company to advance school nutrition in Camden, New Jersey—and we’re already off to a strong start in year two as we expand collaboration beyond Camden.

In September, we announced the Nourishing Families by Nourishing Schools program, supported by Del Monte Foods, to support the overall health of students and their families through education and resources that boost food access and nutrition, as well as social-emotional learning skills.

In collaboration with the Novo Nordisk Foundation, we launched an effort to intensify community-driven solutions to chronic disease prevention in rural North Carolina, particularly in communities of color. To date, we have partnered with nearly two dozen regional organizations, health councils, and food outreach coalitions to improve nutrition access and equity in areas impacted by food deserts and swamps.

Del Monte Foods and Healthier Generation celebrated and honored connection through mealtimes during the holiday season.

Engaging School Communities and Families

Healthier Generation continues to deepen our engagement with school communities and families. With support from funders and peer organizations, we are advancing best practices in creating healthy environments for children, from promoting tobacco cessation to physical activity and on-time vaccination.

The Walking Classroom Joins Healthier Generation

On National Walking Day—Healthier Generation announced the addition of The Walking Classroom to its suite of programming for schools and families.

Since its inception, hundreds of thousands of students are walking, listening, and learning with The Walking Classroom’s award-winning, evidence-based, and standards-aligned podcasts. The program increases physical activity, engages different learning styles, builds health literacy, and addresses learning loss. While classroom adopters receive deep support with lesson plans and assessments, families can access dozens of free podcasts to promote enrichment and outdoor activity at home, too.

As part of Healthier Generation, The Walking Classroom is now reaching even more schools, districts, out-of-school-time programs, and families. 2022 saw record growth for the program, spurred by its stellar reputation in the education market and its alignment with pandemic-recovery funding from The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund and the American Rescue Plan.

Healthier Generation announces the addition of The Walking Classroom, an award-winning program focused on supporting whole child health and learning through increased physical activity.

Healthier Generation’s Daniel Hatcher, senior director of strategic partnerships, and Laura Fenn, creator of The Walking Classroom, join forces promoting the partnership at national conferences.

Advancing Tobacco-Free and Vape-Free Schools

Coach Maurice Tyler teaches physical education at Elizabeth Andrews High School in Stone Mountain, GA, one of America’s Healthiest Schools. “In my 10 years here at the school, I’ve seen students quit smoking and other harmful activities,” says Coach Tyler. “Tobacco is the gateway to other drugs. When students understand that, they realize the benefit from not smoking is greater than the pleasure they think they're getting from smoking.”

Elizabeth Andrews is one of 192 schools recognized across the country for fostering tobacco-free learning environments through implementation of the Tobacco-Free District Model Policy in the 2021-2022 school year. With support from the CVS Health Foundation, Healthier Generation’s programming has strengthened tobacco- and vape-free policies and increased implementation of restorative practices in 181 districts, reaching more than 3.4 million students and staff.

Building on this foundation of success, Healthier Generation launched a school resource hub and Tobacco-Free District Policy Builder to help districts create customized policies that include language to support administrative rules and student codes of conduct.

Elizabeth Andrews High School staff discuss the importance of keeping their school tobacco-free for the well-being of their students and staff.

Staff at Elizabeth Andrews High School (L-R): Maurice Tyler, physical education teacher, Teresa Massey, science department chair, Dr. Joyce Frederick, assistant principal, Milton Hall, principal.

Promoting Childhood Vaccine Confidence and Access

The majority of routine and recommended childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease. However, U.S. childhood immunization rates have declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning more children are unprotected against vaccine-preventable diseases. With ongoing support from Merck and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthier Generation is working to support on-time vaccinations for children, a key contributor to whole child health.

These efforts include:

  • Developing bilingual materials for educators and caregivers with information about vaccine safety and school requirements, housed in our digital resource hub
  • Teaming up with researchers at FHI 360 to conduct parent surveys and interviews about vaccination behaviors and attitudes -- findings from this research, which provides insight into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on childhood vaccine delays, will be released in 2023
  • Collaborating with Public Schools of Robeson County and Bertie County Schools in North Carolina to increase vaccination rates among school-aged youth, primarily Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) student populations
  • Along with local health departments and community partners, leading two back-to-school events for students and families, conducting a community listening forum, disseminating vaccine confidence surveys, and conducting five vaccine clinics, which led to 200 vaccines administered to children in North Carolina
Dr. Connie Locklear, director of the Indian Education Program for the Public Schools of Robeson County, provided vaccine information for Native American communities at a back-to-school event in August.

Celebrating Health Equity Achievements

Healthier Generation is proud to celebrate the schools, communities, and families that join us in our efforts in whole child health. This year, we shone a light on success stories across the country through America’s Healthiest Schools, heritage month observances, and honoring health champions across the country.

America’s Healthiest Schools Support Staff and Student Well-Being

Griffin Middle School (Smyrna, GA)

“Now more than ever, children need resources to support their physical and emotional health,” says Adam Mullis.

Mr. Mullis teaches P.E. at Griffin Middle School, one of eleven schools in the nation that earned the All-Star designation in Healthier Generation’s annual recognition program, America’s Healthiest Schools.

Mr. Mullis is particularly proud of his school’s achievements in the Strengthening Social-Emotional Health & Learning topic area, presented in collaboration with Harmony SEL at National University and Kaiser Permanente. He understands that implementing supports for students’ social-emotional health can be daunting, but the results are worth the effort. “Griffin Middle School has an incredible team of passionate people who are dedicated to student success in all facets, including overall well-being,” he says. “We have created a culture for the whole child to be mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally successful, none of which would be possible without guidance provided by Healthier Generation.”

Griffin Middle School is one of eleven schools in the nation that earned the All-Star designation in Healthier Generation’s annual recognition program, America’s Healthiest Schools.

Gallatin High School (Sumner County, TN)

Educators at Gallatin High School are committed to fostering a healthy school environment for students and staff alike.

Amy Flowers of Gallatin’s health science department, says COVID-19 raised the level of support needed to keep up morale in the school community. “As teachers, we spend a great deal of time and energy making sure that our students are cared for emotionally, physically, and mentally. It was nice to have the opportunity to pour into our faculty and staff. I am very proud of the enormous obstacles our students, faculty, and staff have overcome and their desire to always see the bright side of any situation. Healthier Generation has been integral in our pursuit of a healthier school environment. The tools and personal attention have been amazing.”

Amy Flowers, health science department, Gallatin High School

Developing Leadership Through Family and Community Engagement

Conejo Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, CA, hosts events “that allow families to learn from each other, regardless of language and cultural background differences,” says principal Erica Ultreras. For their leadership, Conejo Elementary was recognized as one of America’s Healthiest Schools, excelling in one area in particular -- Increasing Family & Community Engagement, presented by Kohl’s.

In fall 2022, school staff launched a dual-language immersion program for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students. “One of the impacts we are seeing in students is that although our transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students are young, they are quickly realizing that their words and voice are very powerful,” says Principal Ultreras.

Many Spanish-speaking parents and caregivers “are grateful for the program because they feel like they can now contribute to their child’s education without feeling intimidated because they don’t know English,” and English-speaking families are better able to communicate with peers in Spanish. “Our parents know that being a multilingual and multicultural leader (at our school, everyone is a leader) will open new doors of possibilities for their children.”

Conejo Elementary School students and families are feeling confident and empowered in the first year of the Dual-Language Immersion Program.

Conejo Elementary School’s Latino Family Literacy Project is another resource that families say “has encouraged them to gather as a family as they read a book, learn new skills and celebrate their culture,” according to Principal Ultreras.

Learning From Community Leaders

Throughout the year, Healthier Generation observes cultural history and heritage months, collaborating with partners and health equity champions to amplify and engage in conversations that impact our communities.

In observance of Black History Month, Dr. Sheronda Witter Fleming, from the U.S. Department of Education, David P. “Anderson” at LA’s BEST, and Ashlyn Pinkins at Louisiana Department of Health reflected on the theme Black Health and Wellness: Past, Present, and Future. The speakers shared role models who have had an impact on them, lessons they have learned, and what gives them hope as they work toward a healthier future.

In May, Healthier Generation partnered with Kohl’s to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a multimedia collection of stories and resources. Mina Fedor and Siwoo Rhie of AAPI Youth Rising joined Healthier Generation on Instagram Live to share the ONE/180 Pledge to bring AAPI history and culture lessons to every classroom.

Our partnership with Pomelo Books enriched Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month with two poetry videos and activities encouraging families to embrace the complexities of identity with Margarita Engle and learn about cultures different from our own with Janet Wong. And during Native American Heritage Month in November, writer and storyteller Joseph Bruchac described the custom of winter counting in the last Take 5: Poetry Brain Break of the year.

“Your best is enough.” - David P. “Anderson,” President and CEO, LA’s BEST

Poet Margarita Engle (center) reads her poem “Who Am I?” in English and ¿Quién soy?” in Spanish as she discusses the complexities of cultural identity with Sylvia Vardell (left) and Janet Wong (right) of Pomelo Books in the September Take 5: Poetry Brain Break in celebration of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.

Purposeful Partnerships

2022 was a year of sustaining and celebrating collaboration with Healthier Generation’s 100+ health equity partners and health champions across the country. Grounded in joy, trust, and shared commitment to impact, we believe that to go far, we must go together.

A few highlights of the year include joining champion David P. “Anderson,” CEO of LA’s BEST, for the Lynwood City 5K together alongside Dr. Maria Martinez-Poulin, deputy superintendent of schools for LA County Schools.

We were also proud to attend the Act to Change Community Reception in Los Angeles honoring the 4th Annual National AAPI Day Against Hate and Bullying. Healthier Generation health champions AAPI Youth Rising were recognized for their commitment to creating inclusive, welcoming spaces for youth to learn.

Throughout the year, we continued to find ways to team up with Mizzen by Mott and health champion Carlos Santini to support afterschool educators in advancing whole child health. This included joint presentations at the Arizona and Georgia afterschool conferences.

We also joined Readers to Eaters for two of their World-Making Pop-Up Collaborations in NYC and Portland, Oregon. During the events, community members explored how food can help build bridges and cultivate family.

Another exciting moment of 2022 was the first stop of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ Youth Advocacy Tour hosted by health champions Peter Cho and Sun Park at their restaurant Han Oak. The event brought together local high school students looking to make a lasting impact in their communities for advocacy training.

(L-R) Healthier Generation’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships Daniel Hatcher, with health equity champions Dr. Sheronda Witter Fleming, David P. “Anderson,” Carlos Santini, and Tom Rosenberg at the 2022 National Summer Learning Association Conference

Mizzen by Mott CEO and health champion Carlos Santini (right) and Healthier Generation Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships Daniel Hatcher (center) talk “partnerships in a pandemic” with support from health champion David P. “Anderson” (left), CEO of LA’s BEST.