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Health Foundation Funds Projects Showing Fit Students Make Better Learners

What does it take for school kids to eat healthy?

It takes the proper diet and nutritional guidelines, of course, but also money to implement programs to counter the nation’s trend toward youth obesity.

The fight got a little easier on Sept. 19 when the Colorado Health Foundation awarded RMC Health and the Colorado Department of Education an $8.75 million grant for a three-year extension of its Healthy Schools Colorado Initiative.

The grant will expand on work done over the past three years in various Colorado school districts in combating obesity. The new money will be targeted at 12 new districts to address overweight kids and “create a culture of health” impacting some of the state’s 325,000 students from Kindergarten through grade 12, says the Foundation.

“The initiative, which we have named ‘Healthy Schools Successful Students’, provides a framework for addressing critical health issues that can impact students’ academic success,” explained Sharon Murray, President of RMC Health. “Students who eat healthier, engage in physical activity on a regular basis and have access to a variety of health-related services show consistently improved cognitive performance and enhanced educational achievement. We are excited the Colorado Health Foundation will help us bring this program and its successes to many more Colorado students and communities over the next three years.”

RMC Health will work with existing and new school districts on projects like community gardens, healthy classroom parties and focused efforts to encourage students to increase daily physical activity. The health organization says it will also provide professional development to district-level coordinators and school-level leaders to implement and sustain effective policies and practices.

Beyond the 12 districts that will be funded by RMC Health, the grant will fund 10 districts through the Colorado Department of Education, for a total of 22 districts.

“The Colorado Department of Education is committed to the health and well-being of Colorado students. It is our mission to provide leadership in the creation of healthy school environments through effective partnerships and collaboration,” said Sarah Mathew, Director of Health and Wellness at the Colorado Department of Education. “CDE is thrilled to partner with RMC Health to build awareness and advance healthy schools in Colorado. Through these wellness grants, ten smaller school districts will be able to increase capacity to implement school-wide policies and programs related to school health, and therefore drive student achievement and success.”

Mike Pearson is a 30-year veteran of newspaper and magazine journalism and former Features Editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He currently teaches journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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