Coalitions Should Help Guide Nutrition and Physical Activity Back-to-School Plans

Last week, AccelerateED Task Force released its final guidelines to assist school districts in navigating the coronavirus pandemic and reopening schools across the state. The Task Force took into consideration that not all school districts are the same and plans will vary. They also took into consideration public comment and recommendations from professionals like SCDHEC and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina.

“After reviewing the draft guidelines, we felt it was necessary to stress the importance of the nutrition and physical activity component of the well-rounded student, especially during uncertain times like we’re experiencing today,” says Meg Stanley, executive director of ESMMSC. “As stated in our letter to the Task Force, good nutrition and physical activity can help students feel better, perform better, and reduce anxiety, as well as reduce risks of contracting communicable diseases.”

Stanley also informed the Task Force that local chapters, coalitions, partners, and members are being encouraged to get involved in local task forces for reopening schools. ESMMSC chapters and other healthy eating and active living groups and advocates can play a large role in their local task forces by encouraging local leaders to:

  • Prioritize equity by recognizing that not all areas within school districts have the same resources; and use unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity data to direct resources in an equitable manner.
  • Consider physical education as a core component to the educational experience and provide students physical education regardless of using a traditional, hybrid, or e-learning model; and incorporate physical activity throughout the day for staff and students.
  • Maintain the evidence-based best practice of scheduling at least 20 minutes of daily recess for grades K-5.
  • Maintain, when feasible, the state mandates outlined by the South Carolina Students Health and Fitness Act of 2005, including scheduling at least 150 minutes of physical education (at least 60 minutes) and physical activity (at least 90 minutes) a week for grades K-5.
  • Maintain healthy standards for meals and snacks served as outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture; and utilize resources for elevating standards of food served to meet best practices and standards, such as those outlined by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

“Now more than ever, grassroots advocacy in the local education setting plays a pivotal role in the reopening of our schools and in providing safe and healthy atmospheres for students,” says Stanley. “This is the time for parents, teachers, public health professionals, and our coalitions to get involved in their local education task forces and to make their voices heard on shaping education during a pandemic.”

Contact your local school district for more information about your local task force. Use the resources below to help frame your advocacy messages.

ESMMSC Recommendations

SCDHEC Recommendations

SC Dept. of Education Reopening Plan