It’s Not Back-to-School as Usual, but We Have Your Backs
By Rob Bisceglie, CEO
Sept. 14, 2020
As kids head back to an uncertain school year, they, along with their families and educators, are grappling with a myriad of challenges that very few are fully equipped to manage. The need to support them physically and emotionally is more urgent than ever, with distance and hybrid learning environments the norm and the pandemic blurring the lines between caregiver and teacher, school and home, office and home—and with the level of disparity dependent on one’s zip code. As a dad with a child in each elementary, middle and high school, and as a member of my own school district’s board of education, I know there are no easy answers to the public health and educational crises colliding in our schools today. What I do know is that physical and mental health is of paramount importance, and at Action for Healthy Kids, we are changing how we do things and doing everything we can to ensure that health and well-being don’t get lost in these uncertainand transitional times. Caring for and educating the whole child is our only option.
Here are three significant ways we are addressing this crisis and how you can help:
We’re implementing a new family-school partnership model for delivering even deeper impact.
Before COVID-19 hit, we shaped a new strategic plan and a model that includes three key programmatic areas that support the foundations of lifelong health for kids: food access and nutrition education; physical activity and active play; and social emotional learning and risk behavior prevention. Our model is grounded in evidence-based family-school partnerships. Research consistently shows that family engagement in a child’s education is one of the most powerful predictors of their development, educational attainment, and success in school and beyond. It also impacts their healthy behaviors, as well as likelihood of avoiding unhealthy risk taking, especially related to substance misuse, sexual risk behaviors and violence. If the pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s highlighted the inequities facing kids in underserved communities, whether rural, urban or suburban. That’s why we’re doubling down on developing the capacity and resources of school districts, schools and families—particularly families often considered “hard to reach”—to work together to address the root causes of the health challenges facing kids today. We’re also piloting new grants with schools that primarily serve military families to address their unique social and emotional health needs. Read more about our new model.
We’re creating and curating the best of the best resources for schools and parents.
In addition to the resources we have provided on our website since the onset of COVID-19 school closures, we are now providing a round–up of regularly updated resources to help schools and parents create and maintain safe and healthy environments for kids and families in an uncharted landscape. This includes resources for educators such as:
- A collaborative playbook through Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative;
- resources for integrating social emotional learning into instruction and play; and
- age-appropriate ways to address racial and equity issues.
Resources for parents and caregivers include
- Healthy nutrition-related and physical activities to do at home;
- how to find help with food access, mental health, internet accessibility, and other supports outside of school; and
- resources in Spanish.
We’re meeting school and family partners where they are this year.
This tenet always has been core to our approach to working with schools and families, but even more so now. This year, we’ll be helping schools adapt their grant projects to COVID-19 protocols. For example, instead of planting a school garden, schools can provide students with materials to grow their own indoor herbs as part of health or science classes. Rather than a cart of equipment to be shared by students to support physical activity and social emotional health, students can receive their own take-home kit of resources to use during learning and with their families. We’re working to ensure mindfulness practices can take place whether in the classroom or the living room. And we continue to support schools through Emergency Meal Equipment Grants to ensure kids who rely on school meals are getting the proper nutrition they need in and out of school.
Decades of systemic racism and under-investment in preventive child health programming in our schools and communities have left our most vulnerable citizens—underserved kids and families—in the most precarious situation they and we have ever witnessed. One must wonder: Are we up for this challenge? I believe we can and must be, but success will depend on our ability to change our behaviors and truly match our actions with our words to declare enough is enough. We must care for and prioritize our fellow citizens, especially kids, as if they were members of our own families. Building a brighter and healthier future for kids means building a brighter and healthier future for all of us.
Donate to help Action for Healthy Kids help kids, families and schools most in need.