Strong Wellness Policies Support Health Before, During and After School
Florida International After-School All-Stars - Miami, FL
Students who participate in the Florida International After-School All-Stars program are walking more after school, growing their own vegetables and munching on healthy snacks like watermelon, feta cheese and mint salad. Not only are they eating the healthy snacks, they’re helping to prepare them, too!
“Our sixth graders are working on healthy cooking,” said Jamila Stroman, program director for the Florida International After-School All-Stars,a program funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant at 18 middle schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “We offer project-based learning activities and each week they focus on a different food group such as vegetables, whole grains or fruit.”
For the past year, Jamila has been working with the Julia Onnie-Hay of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative to incorporate wellness into her programming. Wellness is an important priority for the sites, all of which are housed on school campuses, as an extension of the district’s commitment to student health. “We’ve had a strong partnership with the district for 17 years,” said Jamila. “We use their facilities such as playgrounds and we use the same food service staff.”
One of the ways that the afterschool sites have aligned their health priorities with the district’s is through the creation of a wellness policy. Over the past year, Julia led Jamila and neighboring out-of-school time leaders through a series of workshops to identify their wellness goals and objectives, and then translate them into written policies.
Jamila referenced the Miami-Dade County Public Schools wellness policy to ensure that out-of-school time sites reinforced what students learn at school. She then used Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Model Wellness Policy as a template to create a policy that met her site’s unique needs, but also aligned with national standards. “The template made it really easy to draft our policy,” said Jamila. “Start to finish, we had our new policy in about two weeks.”
Now Jamila is making the rounds with the policy, sharing it with her executive director, school principals, and, once finalized, with the staff and students. She said, “Policies and procedures can be more relaxed during afterschool, but having a wellness policy sets the tone and makes wellness a priority.”