Author: acp53771

School Gardening

In a webinar on school gardening, presenter Kyla Van Deusen of the Captain Plant Foundation focuses on bridging the gap between locally grown foods and access to them in schools. Gardens are a hands-on experience that allows students to actively participate in the planting process and provides them with the knowledge of where their food actually comes from. Ms. Deusen mentions many ways to get students involved in gardening such as harvesting, taste testing in the classroom, and placing it in the cafeterias. She also mentioned different ways to connect a garden into school learning such as through after school programs, service learning, or project-based learning in the classroom. One example provided was of a school using spinach instead of green dye for “green eggs and ham” for Dr. Suess day. Big or small steps can make a difference, so a simple start can lead to big changes.

Outdoor and indoor gardens can both be options depending on the location of a school, so it is possible for any school to begin a garden program. Paying attention to seasonality and food safety are important factors to keep in mind no matter what kind of garden a school is implementing. Keeping track of when vegetables and plants are in season helps to ensure the crop is utilized, so Ms. Deusen recommends keeping a seasonal chart as a guide. Food safety includes not only with the food grown in the garden but personal hygiene and post-garden handling as well. Hand washing stations and making sure sick students are not involved in garden activities for a few days are just some of the recommendations for ensuring all food and students are safe. Proper food handling after harvesting is also important for student and food safety, such as making sure the food is cooled down then put in the refrigerator.

Practitioners can benefit from this information by assisting schools with the process of starting a garden. Many partnerships are available for these types of projects, including support from USDA or local grants, so practitioners can be the bridge that connects these partners with the schools. Health practitioners could also provide useful resources on proper food handling and safety to ensure schools understand all factors that play a role in a school garden. Starting a garden program is a team effort, so support from a practitioner in a school’s community is beneficial for success. For more information on gardening in schools, check out – manual and


Zoning for Active Living: A Tool for Facilitating Adult Activity

In a webinar presented by a policy and health researcher named Dr. Jamie Chriqui, the focus is on research she has conducted on the role of zoning and its relationship with adult activity. She discusses designing communities to be more active-friendly, especially for pedestrian orientation. This means more biking and walking accessibility in the environment such as more sidewalks and safer conditions for these activities. She also discusses how zoning is related to public health through zoning laws. These laws can include improving communities to increase active living through the implementation of sidewalks, bike lanes and parking, and street connectivity to just name a few. She also mentions The Community Guide’s recommendations for environmental and policy approaches to increase physical activity that focus on design techniques for different strategies such as safe street crossings, reducing car use, and facilitating walking and biking.

In her research examining the prevalence of active-living zoning across the United States, her research team found that it is stronger in urban areas and weaker in non-urban areas, and low-income areas have weaker zoning compared to higher income areas. These results were not that surprising considering there is a higher need for safety on streets and sidewalks in urban areas with more traffic. Overall, her findings show that active living-oriented zoning measures are significantly associated with increased walking, biking, and taking any active transportation to work. It is important to note that these are correlations and not causations, but it shows that these policies do have the potential to be successful.

This information is beneficial for practitioners that are seeking to improve zoning in a community that may not have efficient active-living policies in place. Practitioners can be the bridge connecting the community leaders to the people of the community by working with leaders on the planning and designing of these policies. This is also useful for promoting active living in a community by not only incorporating active-living into zoning policies, but to also encourage individuals to walk or bike to their destination once developments have been made. Sidewalks and safety developments can be successful, but individuals must be aware of them and encouraged to use them. For additional information on active living oriented zoning, check out the National Complete Streets Coalition’s website:

How Quality Physical Education, Recess, and Active Classrooms Enhance Learning

In a webinar presented by Coach Paul Zientarski of Naperville, Illinois, the main focus is on the importance of physical activity being implemented in schools and the positive effects of physical education programs. Not only can physical activity influence one’s body and weight, it also impacts the mind and can improve learning. Exercise prepares the mind in a number of ways, including improvements in impulse control, attention, and behavior. The webinar included evidence from previous studies that have shown the effects on the brain when physical activity is present in a child’s day. One example showed the comparisons of brain activity of students that were sitting quietly before taking a test and those that had taken a 20-minute walk before the test. Results showed that while taking the test, those that had walked for 20 minutes were using more brain activity than those that had not taken a walk beforehand (image below).  Based on this result, even the simple movement of walking can enhance the brain and prepare it for learning.

Paul Zientarski also discussed his own program, Learning-Readiness Physical Education (LRPE). The physical education course took place before a reading class, so that the influence of physical activity on learning and achievement in the classroom could be measured. The program included different components such as core strength, cross lateral activities, team building, and academic support while exercising. Academic support while exercising allowed students to study or do some type of academic tasks while doing low-intensity activity such as riding a stationery bike. By the end of the semester, kids in the exercise class did 56% better in the reading class than the ones that did not participate. The school was so impressed with these results, they did the same program with children struggling in a math class and saw improvements with that as well. Similar programs are being implemented in schools across the country, so it is possible to use this intervention in a variety of communities and schools. These physical activity programs could also be used during the school day to increase standardized test scores, and also show students a way to prepare for tests such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE.

This information could be useful for health educators to take into the schools and promote the positive learning outcomes for students that can come from exercising. This could greatly benefit many school districts that are considering taking out physical education and recess from the school day and help them to understand the many learning benefits that can result from exercise. However, it can only be successful if physical education teachers are willing to work hard and get the children moving and involved. If implemented in an appropriate way, this could lead many school administrators to improving physical education and motivating the physical education teachers to get more involved in programs like LRPE. For more information on the benefits of physical education in schools, check out



Growing the Vision for Safe Mobility: Vision Zero Network

Leah Shahum, the founder and director of the Vision Zero Network, discusses in a webinar the importance of traffic safety through the initiative of Vision Zero. Vision Zero is a project with the goal of zero traffic injury among all street users, including those walking, driving, or biking. This focuses on traffic safety with a public health approach to provide individuals with safe streets to move around on. Motor vehicle deaths are currently higher than firearms deaths, which is surprising due to the lack of traffic violence in the news and media. 38,000 people lost their lives on the streets last year due to vehicle-related incidents, so it is time to address this issue and make people aware that we are able to control the safety of our streets.

Of course there is no way to prevent all traffic accidents, but many factors often play into why a crash occurred, and it is not always just an accident. For example, it could be related to engineering problems, individual behaviors, or other preventable measures. Two important aspects of crashes that were addressed in the webinar were related to speed and engineering problems. Factors addressing speed issues are simply setting appropriate speed limits, enforcing them, and proper sign placement to make the streets safer. The base of making the streets safer also begins with engineering. Some ways to improve engineering could be having more sidewalks, wider bike lanes, and more space between the road and sidewalk. To do this, an entire community must get involved such as the mayor’s office, police force, and the public health department. It is a team effort focused on measurable goals to bring safety to a community.

Vision Zero has been effective in major cities across the United States, including Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., and New York City with lower traffic-related death rates as Vision Zero has been implemented. Because of the success in major cities, it would also be useful to use this project in smaller communities and suburban areas as well. No one should be in danger or fearful simply moving around one’s own community. Health practitioners and professionals encourage people to get outside and be active through walking, running, or biking, but to do this effectively, policies like Vision Zero need to be in the environment to provide overall street safety. Practitioners can use this information to influence policy and legislation, promote community education, and change the practices of the community to put Vision Zero into action. Public health professionals can also encourage individuals to be aware of their surroundings when out on the streets, such as looking both ways before crossing and limiting cell phone use. For more information on taking action and an individual’s role in traffic and street safety, is a useful source.


Love of Eating… Fear of Food: How to Empower Consumers in an Age of Mistrust

Your best friend tells you that GMOs are in your food, and they are bad for the environment. You see an article posted by Dr. Oz saying that you should try this new life-changing diet. These are just some of the “tips” that consumers see and hear on a daily basis on what and what not to do when it comes to food choices. But how are consumers supposed to know what is reliable with all of the many sources and outlets in society today? This was the topic of a webinar with the Center for Food Integrity that seeks to gain consumer trust in the food system to provide the knowledge that is desperately needed. With the many nutrition “experts” in the media, bad science, and buzzwords everywhere, consumers are fearful of who they can actually trust.

Every year, the Center for Food Integrity conducts a survey to see what consumers’ thoughts and actions are when it comes to food choices. From their most recent survey, it was found that consumers make more of their food choices based on shared values from relationships with others rather than received facts. This emphasizes the influence of trust, and therefore the importance of the food systems shifting their approach to shared values to connect with the consumer. Consumers do not feel engaged to the food system and are seeking transparency and the need to be heard. Of course facts do not need to be abandoned all together, but the nutrition and health professionals should be leading the facts with shared values to be communicated effectively.  The goal of communication should not be to persuade or educate, but rather to embrace the skepticism. Sarah Downs, a registered dietitian that led part of the webinar, provided a helpful tool for communicating with individuals: “listen, ask, share”. She believes in listening without judgment and listening to a person’s values first, then asking questions about thoughts and beliefs. Everyone has different values, whether it is difficulty finding affordable food, being fearful of food recalls, or wanting to eat organic foods, therefore listening is key to understanding. Sharing should include sharing your own perspective and values with an individual, so a connection can be bridged together. Whether it is family, integrity, or quality, everyone has values that impact their food choices and beliefs.

This information is especially useful for dietitians, clinicians, and other professionals in the nutrition field when having conversations with clients about food choices. Dietitians should also use their expertise through social media as well since that seems to be the main outlet consumers receive information. For more information on this topic, and are great resources for nutrition professionals or for the everyday consumer.


Farm to School Menu Planning

Locally grown foods can be found easily at most grocery stores and even some restaurants, but have you ever thought about schools serving local foods? Now, the idea of buying locally is emerging into schools as well. In this webinar on Farm to School menu planning, Chef Kent Getzin of Wenatchee’s Farm to School Movement in Washington discussed the success of his program and encouraged other schools to give it a try. He found that local food and ingredients could impact children’s health and introduce them to delicious, healthy meals, and also benefit the local farmers. Surprisingly, local farmers are also eager to get their food into schools to introduce their products and provide fresh and healthy lunches to the children in their community. By establishing relationships with the farmers and accessing supports, he was able to have a successful program.

Many schools are anxious to try this kind of program, but it is not as difficult as one may think. A concern to this type of program is with untrained staff and not being able to manage the preparation of unprocessed local foods. However, by taking small steps in the right direction, programs can be successful anywhere. It is important for a school to do what best works for them. For example, starting with one recipe at a time rather than an entire menu. Setting small goals allows the process to be less overwhelming and still lead to changes in the schools.

Many positive outcomes can result from introducing new foods to children. A fun event that was done with the Wenatchee program was providing taste testings in the cafeteria for the students. Local farmers would come in to highlight new foods and see how the children react to them. It is like a farmer’s market for the kids and shows them that the food on their plate comes from a farm right down the road from their school. Chef Kent Getzin emphasized how much positive feedback is received on these farm-to-school programs, and how easy it can be for other schools to implement local foods into their menus. I believe schools all over the United States could benefit from farm-to-school programs, especially states in the Southeast with high rates of childhood obesity. If children are able to eat more about healthy foods and learn about what is grown in their community, this could potentially lead to them adapting healthy eating habits that will continue throughout their lives. In addition to physical health, healthy lunches can also influence classroom learning and learning abilities. By eating healthy, local foods, children are more energized throughout the day and can perform better in the classroom. With benefits such as these, more schools should consider looking into farm-to-schooFSbringingl programs for their school lunch programs.  There are many resources available for schools and communities to provide guidance in implementing these programs.  The USDA Food and Nutrition services have many resources on their website including information on establishing a vision and goals, buying local foods, and menu planning strategies.  Some of the menu planning resources even include food buying guides, worksheets, and a food buying guide calculator for building shopping lists and determining how much of an item to purchase. These resources are great toolkits for getting one of these programs started as well as making it successful.