Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Soup to nuts school health and wellness bill introduced

CM Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and Council Chair Vincent Gray (At-large) have co-introduced B18-564, "Healthy Schools Act of 2009."   The legislation seeks to improve the whole of the school experience from a health and wellness perspective, from food to good quality air, at both DCPS and public charter schools.

Key elements of the bill include:

  • Nutritious school meals:   Central to this is the provision that requires public schools to participate in federal meal programs to the greatest extent possible.   This legislation relies on federal law and regulations for nutrition standards; schools will implement the nutritional standards over time.
  • Farm-to-school program:   This legislation seeks to increase locally-grown, locally-processed, and minimally-processed food served in schools.   This food is to be from growers engaged in sustainable practices.   Further, schools are required to teach about the economic, environmental, and nutritional benefits of fresh, local foods.
  • Physical education:   The bill requires the establishment of minimum levels of physical education and activity for students with exceptions for students with disabilities and chronic health problems.
  • Recycling:   Recycling programs at every school would be required.
  • Green building:   The District is encouraged to meet LEED certification at the Gold level or higher for new construction or significant school construction.
  • School gardens:   Schools are encouraged to establish garden programs.
  • School health programs:   This legislation would require a plan to place a school wellness center at every comprehensive DCPS high school by 2015, to give preference in hiring school nurses certified as asthma educators, and to require that schools develop allergy plans and appoint an allergy coordinator.

The DC Farm to School Network has done a terrific job listing all the farm-to-school provisions of the bill.   They have also offered some concrete ways to support the bill.   The Network is sponsoring an event on January 12, 2010 from Noon - 2:00 pm for folks to learn more about the bill, what it means for getting healthy and local food into DC's public schools, and how they will work to make sure it becomes a law.   Bring your lunch to the meeting at Friends of the Earth (1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, 6th floor).   Or, call in to 1-888-346-3659 and when prompted enter 7405#.

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