For The Madera Tribune
The Madera Unified School District’s 23 comprehensive schools are being recognized as “America’s Healthiest Schools” by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for promoting nutritious meals, physical activity and mental wellness.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation recognized 518 schools across the nation. Madera Unified is the only district in California to have all of its comprehensive schools recognized with the bronze award for being one of America’s Healthiest Schools in 2020.
Kaiser Permanente is a supporting partner of the America’s Healthiest Schools campaign, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a partner of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools effort.
“I could not be more excited for Madera Unified and all of our partners who helped collaborate in order to achieve this distinguished accomplishment,” said Marty Bitter, Madera Unified’s Director of Athletics. “It has always been our goal to create an environment that is safe, active, and healthy for our students, staff, administration, families, and community.”
Madera Unified School District has focused on empowering their staff to be healthier and role model good behavior for students. It has also encouraged students and their families to make healthier choices in school and at home.
“We are so proud of Madera Unified for taking the steps as a district to encourage students, staff and teachers to embrace a healthier lifestyle,” said Wade Nogy, Senior Vice President and Area Manager of Kaiser Permanente Fresno. “Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping schools practice good health because we know better health leads to educational success.”
As part of the effort toward better health, Madera Unified implemented an overall wellness policy that every department utilizes. Individual schools also set specific goals for how they can be healthier including:
• More activities at recess to get students moving
• Community gardens that provide families with access to healthy fruits and vegetables
• Cardio equipment available for staff use during breaks
• Credentialed PE teachers at every elementary school
The health and wellness efforts have continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, even though students aren’t attending classes in person. Elementary students are still receiving one 30-minute block of PE per week and are given at-home movement-based assignments to complete each week. The 7,500 elementary students in the district also received a fitness and activity pack for their home that includes soft foam balls, bean bags, jump ropes and juggling scarves they can use to stay active.
Teachers who are on-site during the pandemic, participate in a daily “Walk and Talk” where music is played outside as they take 15-minute walks.
The district is also emailing regular health and wellness tips to families and employees with ideas for how to stay active even as traditional recreational spots like community centers and gyms are closed.
The changes are making a difference in the overall health and wellness of students with student obesity rates declining, said Jaime Brown, physical education program grant coordinator for the district.
“This has really been something positive for us to focus on as we deal with the pandemic and changes to the way the school year looks,” she said. “We are really honored to be recognized with this award.
For nearly 15 years, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s annual recognition program has honored schools that are implementing best practices that support children’s learning and development, including meeting or exceeding federal standards for nutritious school meals and providing regular opportunities for students and staff to be active throughout the school day. It remains one of the country’s longest-running, nationwide recognition programs honoring schools for achievements in nutrition, physical activity and wellness policies. To view the complete list of awardees, visit HealthiestSchools.org.