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Partner Spotlight:Healthy Schools Campaign

June 27th, 2016

This month's partner spotlight is The Healthy Schools Campaign. The organizations mission is "to advocate for policies and practices that allow all students, staff, and faculty to learn and work in a healthy school environment". The Campaign aims to limit the amount of highly processed foods that schools offer, to ensure that schools are offering healthy food options, to communicate the importance of healthy eating, and to increase the number of green schoolyards. Learn more about the campaign and it's relationship to community schools.


1. Can you explain the overall mission of the HSC? 
Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization with a mission to advocate for policies and practices that allow all students, staff and faculty to learn and work in a healthy school environment. As a leading advocate for healthy school environments at the local, state and national levels, HSC works to make sustainable and systemic changes that support the conditions of health in schools across the country. Since beginning as a local project in 2002, HSC has grown into a vibrant national organization with diverse strategic partnerships and highly effective outreach to schools, communities and policymakers. The organization’s core values of stakeholder empowerment, social justice and collaboration define its strategies and activities. 

2. What milestones has HSC already reached or is currently moving towards?

HSC has reached the current milestones:
Chicago Work
In Chicago, HSC has successfully advocated for policies and programs that support local schools and elevate the importance of health within the district, including stronger nutrition standards, the passage of a healthy snack and beverage policy and a strong district wellness policy and the passage of a policy requiring daily, high-quality PE. In addition, HSC has worked with the district to significantly reduce the amount of highly processed foods served to students. Key changes the district has made include expanding its farm-to-school program to all schools and discontinuing the offering of reformulated cereals to students. The changes in policies and programs benefit more than 350,000 students (the number of non-charter students in CPS). 
In addition, HSC, in partnership with Openlands implement Space to Grow, an effort to transform Chicago schoolyards into centers of school and community life where children can be physically active, learn about the environment, enjoy green space and grow healthful food. HSC and partners have secured public funding for the development of 34 schoolyards by 2019. To date, six schoolyards have been constructed.
HSC’s customized training programs provide school stakeholders with the motivation, knowledge and skills necessary to make changes at the school level. HSC also works with these stakeholders to support changes to policies at the district, state and national levels. Each training program is developed with active input from the target stakeholder group, is delivered at a time and place appropriate for each group, and incorporates leaders from each stakeholder group as trainers and presenters. Program graduates receive ongoing support and tools. HSC has trained over 400 parents, over 300 teachers, over 50 school nurses and 45 principals in Chicago through these

National Work

At the national level HSC, in partnership with Trust for America’s Health, launched the National Collaborative on Education and Health in February 2014. Since its launch, the Collaborative has brought together over 100 national, state and local organizations and government agencies and over 140 individuals. The work of the Collaborative is overseen by a steering committee of 28 individuals, including Marty Blank. The work of the Collaborative focuses on changes that will support schools, with a focus on the K-12 environment, in creating the conditions for student health and academic success. In the past year, the collaborative developed strategies for catalyzing efforts to address chronic absenteeism (defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused) and supported the implementation of evidence-based interventions to address substance misuse in schools. A key outcome of the collaborative’s 2015 work was the launch of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Every Student, Every Day initiative which is working to galvanize multi-sector support to promote federal, state and local efforts to address chronic absenteeism.
In addition, HSC hosts Cooking up Change, a national culinary contest that challenges high school students to make healthy school meals their peers will enjoy. Since 2007, Cooking up Change competitions have taken place in 20 different cities, with more than 1,800 student chefs participating and 8.2 million student-designed meals being served in school cafeterias across the country. This program educates students about healthy eating and provides them with the opportunity to learn more about careers in the culinary arts.
3. How do HSC’s principles tie into the Community School’s principles and philosophy? How do you see your work fitting into ours?
HSC’s principles tie in very closely with the Community School’s principles and philosophy. Core to HSC’s work is the need for collaboration between different partners and sectors to create healthier school environments and a key component of our work is promoting that collaboration. For example, through our Space to Grow initiative, we are working to ensure schools are seen as the centers of their community and that the new schoolyards are accessible to all community members. The program also included workshops for community members so they can learn about the new schoolyards. 
In addition, a core component of our work is increasing access to school health services for students and we have been leading efforts to promote collaborations between local health providers and schools to ensure students have access to the health care they need to be in school and ready to learn.
Finally, central to our work in Chicago is our parent engagement program. Through this program we have engaged over 400 Chicago parents and provided them with the knowledge and skills needed to be champions for change in their schools. Many of these parents take on leadership roles within their schools and actively work to engage their local community in efforts to support the schools.

4. What are some exciting things coming up for HSC (i.e., events, publications)?
In July, HSC will host Change for Good, an annual fundraising luncheon focusing on our work in Chicago. We are also working on a three-year review of the wellness policy of Chicago Public Schools, which will culminate in presenting our recommendations to strengthen the policy to the Chicago Board of Education. Also this summer, we will host a three-day training program for parent leaders and a one-day professional development session for teachers.
In addition, on July 28 and 29 HSC will host a Green Clean Schools Leadership Institute. The Institute will bring together leading university and K-12 facility operators from across the country in an effort to grow the green cleaning movement in schools. 
5. Finally, what is the most exciting thing about working at HSC? 
One of the most exciting things about working at HSC is the energy and enthusiasm that the organization’s staff has for their work. It is a highly committed group of individuals that is passionate about creating healthier school environments.
In addition, one of my favorite things about working at HSC is how our national work is very much grounded in the lessons and strategies learned from HSC’s work in Chicago. Through our work with parents, teachers, principals and students we come to understand the need for key changes in federal, state and local policy and practice and are able to work to support those changes. We then get to see the impact of those policies in the schools where we have an active presence.


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