A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beechwood promotes health, wellness with REACH collaboration with NKY Health Department

Special to NKyTribune

More gardening. More playing. More nutritious snacking. After a two-year project in collaboration with the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Beechwood Independent School District is offering more health and wellness support for students and staff.

Schools now have fresh vending machines, which include healthy snacks such as hummus and carrots, protein bars, fruit and vegetable smoothies, organic drinks, and more. They also have more health-promoting activities including a Gaga Ball Pit––a gentler variation on dodgeball set in an octagon or hexagon––and a garden project at Beechwood Elementary School.

Preschool students were invited to plant seeds, harvest the vegetables, weed the garden, and water the plants. All the vegetables harvested were donated to a local charity.

“Healthy children lead to academic success,” said Amy Thomas, Beechwood’s District Health Coordinator. “If they are not healthy in school they will not be able to learn. Working together with the REACH grant and the NKYHD has enabled us to champion school health and wellness while positively impacting all children to ultimately enhance academic success.”

Beechwood applied for the Northern Kentucky Health Department’s 2015-2017 Resources for Excellence to Achieve Coordinated School Health (REACH) Incentive Funds project and was selected to work on district-wide nutrition and physical activity projects. The overall goal of the REACH project was to improve the school health environment by creating a team to make wellness policy changes.

“Two of the Beechwood team’s major outcomes were to overhaul vending machines and provide more physical activity opportunities for students and staff after school,” said DaNelle Jenkins, School Health Educator for the health department.

When the project started at Beechwood, the district and the health department worked to identify assets and barriers to health in their school environments. The team introduced a School Health Index, a self-assessment and planning tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The assessment was conducted in the fall of 2015. In response to the assessment, the district created an action plan and worked to implement the plan through 2017.

Jenkins said Beechwood is a leader in the area of health and wellness initiatives.

“They not only offer options for physical activity and healthier eating outside of the school day, but they also have policies in place to support it,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins also noted that team-building was a key element in the REACH project. Members and partners of Beechwood included the district health coordinator, administrators, food service personnel, students, parents, community members, city council members and others.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department regularly partners with schools to improve wellness.

REACH school health projects run on two-year cycles. Applications for schools to partner with the Health Department on projects for the 2017-2019 cycle are currently under review, and all schools in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties serving K-12 students were eligible to apply.

In addition to working on the REACH project and health initiatives with schools, the Health Department also collaborates with youth-serving agencies and serves on coalitions and teams to improve health in the region.

Beechwood Schools

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