DC Health Schools Act: A Snapshot of Great Progress

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will surely know all about The DC Healthy Schools Act. For you newbies out there, the DC healthy Schools Act was a landmark piece of legislation –passed unanimously in May of 2010 - that cemented the District as a national leader in raising health and wellness standards in public schools. Hailed as model school wellness and anti-hunger legislation, the Act distributed approximately $6 million in its first year, providing students with a wide array of services designed to promote healthy lifestyle choices. Programs included increased access to fresh produce through farm to school programs, free breakfasts, increased daily exercise time, as well as exposure to school gardens and environmental education.

The Healthy Schools Act began implementation in August of 2010. Since then, the general sense of the act’s effectiveness has been positive. However, it was only recently that we were able to quantify that feeling. Earth Day Network, in collaboration with D.C. Hunger Solutions, among others, has authored a report highlighting the real-life benefits the Healthy Schools Act has brought to the District’s 75,000 students in its first year of existence.     

The DC Healthy Schools Act Snapshot details year one accomplishments and year two priorities. It can be found here. Some highlights include:

  • The District’s 34 percent growth in school breakfast participation that yielded an additional 7,400 students eating breakfast each day.
  • Middle Schools reporting that students received 107 minutes, on average, of physical education each week – more than doubling the year one goal.
  • The city’s hiring of a school garden specialist and commitment to fund school gardens.
  • More than 90% of schools serve lunch components that meet the Healthy Schools Act lunch menu criteria including among others:
    • A different vegetable each day of the week.
    • Fresh fruit at least twice a week.
    • Whole grains at least once a day.
  • 65% of schools, at least once a month, serve locally grown food from growers engaged in sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Students in grades 6-8 received an average of 53 minutes per week of health education, not only more than doubling the year one requirement, but also falling only 22 minutes short of meeting the 2014-2015 requirement of 75 minutes per week.
  • 52.4% of school either already have, or have started planning for a garden.

With the help of a broad coalition of supporters we have made great progress towards creating the healthiest possible environment for our children. The results of just one year under the Act have been astonishing, and we are excited to continue our work in making DC the healthiest city in America. Of course there is still much work to be done. To find ways to contribute, please visit the Healthy Schools Act Website, or join our Educator’s Network for access to all of Earth Day Network’s educational resources.