A Strong Wellness Policy Set Leo Marcell Elementary on the Path to Success

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, Mission Consolidated Independent School District overhauled its wellness policy, with guidance from Healthy Schools Manager Fancy Flores and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Model Wellness Policy.

Strengthening the policy is already having a big impact on school wellness. Just look at what Leo Marcell Elementary School has accomplished this year – earning Healthier Generation’s highest level of distinction – a National Healthy Schools Gold Award! “One of the biggest changes in our wellness policy was that we no longer use food to fundraise. Many said that we would not be able to bring in enough revenue without food, but we were able to match what we raised in past years,” said Physical Education Teacher Jose Huerta, Jr.

Outside of fundraisers, Marcell Elementary also changed the way food was used in celebrations. “Our students and staff were used to celebrating with food,” Jose said. “This is a big part of our Hispanic culture.” Instead, the school swapped physical activity for food during the annual fall festival, and celebrated students’ perfect attendance records with arts and crafts, additional recess time, or eating lunch with the principal in the cafeteria.

All of the changes to the food environment, in addition to starting a running club and boosting recess time, are paying off for Marcell’s students and staff. “The students are more focused in the classroom. Their fitness levels have improved through skills they’ve learned throughout the year in physical education,” said Jose.

Jose and other school staff are leading by example. They have removed sugary beverages from vending machines in the staff lounge and participate in school-wide wellness challenges to demonstrate that healthy lifestyles aren’t just for students, they’re for everyone.