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District Health & Wellness Policy Shaped by Diverse Community

Osseo Area Schools
Hennepin County, Minnesota

Group PhotoOn August 22nd, 2017, The Osseo School Board in Hennepin County, Minnesota approved a newly-revised, precedent-setting health and wellness policy. The new policy is culturally responsive, grounded in health equity and driven by a diverse community.

Beginning this school year, there will be clear labeling of food to accommodate religious and cultural customs, water will be made more accessible to all students, and the school district’s food and nutrition department is evaluating their methods of communication to families.

How did the Osseo School Board come to these improvements as the basis for the new policy?

In 2016, a group of diverse stakeholders came together to form the Osseo Health and Wellness Project (OHWP). Led by African Immigrant Services (AIS), the Osseo Health and Wellness Project works to build institutional commitment to equitable health and wellness practices in Osseo Area Schools and uplift the voices of parents, students and community members as leaders in addressing health inequities. OHWP partners include Osseo Area Schools Food and Nutrition Services Department, Minnesota Action for Healthy Kids, Center for Prevention, University of Minnesota Extension, Hennepin County Government SHIP and the University of Minnesota Food and Nutrition Department.

In May of 2017, AIS convened a focus group of parents, teachers, students, community leaders and school officials to review, influence and redesign the district’s health and wellness policy. Over 70 participants worked together to create a holistic policy that reflects the needs of their culturally diverse community and that included their input throughout the process. This was the first time in the 30-year history of the Food and Nutrition Department that a multicultural community came together to co-design the district’s health and wellness policy.

As a result, the Osseo School Board unanimously voted to adopt the revised health and wellness policy, and the district has decided to prioritize health and wellness as one of the focus areas in each principal’s site improvement plan for the upcoming school year. Additionally, the district superintendent has committed to appointing wellness coordinators to manage the implementation of the new policy.

Fata Acquoi, the lead Educational Organizer for AIS, says that while the new health and wellness policy focuses primarily on nutrition and physical activity, there are plans underway to increase its capacity and scope to include mental health. “This process demonstrates the power of our communities and what we can accomplish.”