Healthy School Teams Spread Statewide

girl with book and appleHealthy School Teams—a model incubated by the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) in partnership with the 12 Winter Park Consortium schools and then expanded to all Orange County public schools—will play a key role in promoting and supporting new healthy snack rules throughout Florida.

The new role for HSTs—and the requirement all schools in Florida have HSTs by June 30, 2015—came about because of new federal guidelines designed to insure snacks available at school are healthy for students. The snack guidelines are part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

Under the guidelines, which take effect this school year, snacks sold to students at school must be made of 50 percent or more whole grains or have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein as a first ingredient, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In addition, they will have to be rich in essential vitamins and minerals and limited in calories, fat and sodium.

Beverages sold in schools need to be healthy, as well. All schools can sell water, milk and 100 percent juice. High schools can sell calorie-free and low-calorie beverages, according to FDACS.

They also govern fundraisers, although the governing school board can approve a limited number of exceptions from the nutrition standards for fundraisers during the school year.

The standards, however, don’t impact lunches prepared at home and brought to school or treats sent to school on special occasions, although some local school district wellness policies do govern these areas. Click here to view the Orange County Public Schools Wellness Policy.

boy gives thumbs up to fruitAs the new regulations were presented for input during public hearings around Florida, school food and nutrition staff expressed a great deal of concern about how they could monitor and enforce new guidelines with limited staff capacity. Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President, attended sessions on the rule and suggested schools with HSTs have an advantage because the responsibility for this sort of health-promoting policy could be shared among the HST members who have greater reach within the school. (The teams include faculty/teachers, administrators, parents and others.)

HSTs have been in place in the 12 WPHF partner schools that serve children from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville for more than a decade. Based on the Coordinated School Health Program model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HSTs are charged with creating programs and policies that promote healthy lifestyles in their schools.

And, because of their success, the concept was written into the District School Wellness Policy adopted in Orange County in 2007. But many other school districts in Florida do not have HSTs.

The WPHF suggestion prompted the FDACS staff to consider the HST model as a best practice and great opportunity to help with the implementation of the new rule throughout Florida.

As a result, all Florida districts are to establish HSTs—made up of parents, students, school food service program representatives, school administrators, school health professionals, PE teachers and the public—to oversee compliance with the healthy snack rules, to maintain a school calendar tracking exempted food fundraisers and to report on compliance. The requirement–part of Rule 5P-1.003, Responsibilities for the School Food Service Program–doesn’t go into effect until the 2015-16 school year, giving districts a year to prepare.

“HSTs play a vital role in our 12 local schools creating a culture of good health for students and staff,” said Ms. Watson. “We are so proud of what they have accomplished over the past 10 years and that the state recognizes their positive impact. HSTs are now required across the state because of the fine work of these local teams. Their presence will not only ensure compliance with new healthy snack rules, but will make all schools healthier places for students and staff.”

Click here for more information on and to view the new Florida rules.