The Alliance for a Healthier Generation just released their annual ranking: These are the top physical education and nutrition-based initiatives.
Every year, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation analyzes wellness and nutrition initiatives that public schools across the nation are pioneering. The nonprofit, which focuses on reducing childhood obesity and bolstering youth health education, released their list of America's healthiest schools today—and there are 461 schools being recognized for forward-thinking health initiatives, around 120 more than the previous year.
All the schools on this year's list have championed programs to make healthier food available, and they've worked hard to create spaces where both students and staff are encouraged to be active.
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To qualify for an award, schools must serve healthy snacks and meals, invest in physical and health education, and make more resources available to teachers and staff to do so. Plus, these public schools must meet federal nutrition standards and offer breakfast to students.
Out of the 461 schools who received recognition this year, 81% are considered high-need, defined as serving more than 40% of students eligible for federal free and reduced-price lunches, according to Laura O'Connor, the nonprofit's vice president of marketing and communications. These schools are scattered across 26 different states and the District of Columbia. You can view the full list here.
These are this year's 13 healthiest schools, all of whom earned gold-level recognition:
- W.O Parmer School — Greenville, Alabama
- Beryl Heights Elementary School — Redondo Beach, California
- Loma VIsta Middle School — Riverside, CA
- Belcher Elementary School — Clearwater, Florida
- Forest Lakes Elementary School — Oldsmar, FL
- John M. Sexton Elementary School — St. Petersburg, FL
- Skycrest Elementary School — Clearwater, FL
- Spout Springs School of Enrichment — Flowery Branch, Georgia
- Northeast Elementary Magnet School — Danville, Illinois
- Beloved Community Charter School — Jersey City, New Jersey
- Freedom Elementary School — Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- Northwest Prep Academy — Memphis, Tennessee
- IDEA Brackenridge College Prep — San Antonio, Texas
Each one of these schools require students to enroll in physical education courses, including 150 minutes of active time for elementary students, and each meets the Department of Agriculture's nutrition standards for offering snacks—which means that everything from fundraisers to vending machines are just as healthy as breakfast and lunch options.
On top of all that, these schools incorporate local agriculture into school activities—whether that's managing a school garden or serving locally grown food at lunchtime.
Looking for healthier foods for your child? Read on:
But to earn the title of "healthiest school in America," you have to go above and beyond. So here are some of the programs and strategies that have separated these schools from the others:
1) Creatively Bringing in More Fresh Food Into Cafeterias
Whether it's providing fresh fruit or serving meals that are more closely aligned with students' culture, O'Connor says that the top schools are leaning on creative ways to make sure each meal is as fresh and nutritionally rewarding as it can be.
At Loma Vista Middle School in California, there's a nutrition service department that directly works with school leadership to improve meal quality and options—they've added fresh smoothies and yogurt parfaits to breakfast menus, but they also added music and games for students to actually get them to attend breakfasts. This kind of approach upped the breakfast attendance by at least 10 percent.
2) Focusing on More Than Just Recess
O'Connor says that elementary students enjoy at least 60 minutes of physical education per week at any of the schools on the list, while those in middle and high school are required to take physical education classes for at least half of the academic year. For those 13 schools who earned gold-level recognition, elementary students take a minimum of 150 minutes of physical education classes each week whereas middle and high school students are enrolled in these courses all year long.
Getty: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc
At Walnut Elementary School in La Habra, California, there's a physical education teacher on staff between two and three days a week, and students exercise at least two hours a week during the academic day. There are also programs like "Walk to School Wednesday" and "Fit Fridays" which encourages activity outside of school hours.
In many cases, entire school districts also implement physical activity policies for their schools, like the 67 award-winning schools in California's Los Angeles school district that now provide resources to students to walk and bike to school each day.
3) Bringing Physical Activity Into Classroom Learning
In addition to recess or P.E. class, the schools with top awards also manage to merge classroom learning time with movement. Some offer before-school physical activities like ballet or yoga, O'Connor says.
At Freedom Elementary in Oklahoma, teachers integrate physical activity into their lesson plans with "brain breaks" and "fit stops" to try to help students remained focused and on task in the long run. Their staff notes that policies like these help students remain better focused and calmer, overall.
4) Considering Mental and Social Wellbeing
In addition to teaching best nutrition values and physical exercise, these schools take time to address mental health and social-emotional development, O'Connor says.
Staff at North Carolina's Williston Middle School do not punish students by restricting physical activity—including recess. And teachers promote physical activity and a healthier approach to mealtime as a way to address any issues affecting students outside of school, including trauma and other related incidents.
5) Asking Parents for Help
Almost every school on this list recruits parents and community members to join official school wellness initiatives and gathers their input on nutrition and physical activity policies.
Spout Springs School of Enrichment in Georgia holds an annual fundraiser, called the Seminole Sprint, which is anchored around physical activity. Parents and community members donate based on the number of laps that students run or walk, and locals volunteer and donate resources like water bottles or t-shirts. This fundraiser brings in upwards of $50,000 each year while promoting better health and wellness for students.
6) Helping Staff Members Remain Healthy, Too
It's not just about students' wellness, O'Connor says—healthy students often rely on even healthier role models to inspire them. Many of these schools offer staff members access to free or low-cost physical activity and fitness programs to help them stay healthy while teaching.
Staff members at Northwest Prep Academy in Tennessee join students in eating healthy meals in the cafeteria. O'Connor says that the shared mealtime resulted in a more cohesive learning environment for the rest of the academic day, and so school leaders banned outside food and beverages for both students and faculty to encourage even more growth.
To give poor kids a chance, Dallas should address these powerful trends
Note: This article is part of our State of the City project, in which The Dallas Morning News explores the most critical issues facing our communities. Find more topics in our look at the Dallas economy in the coming days.
Abeni Jewel Haynes doesn’t live in Oak Cliff. Her father, the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church in southern Dallas, told me with notable pride that she recently graduated from Brown University and is soon moving to Los Angeles. But, the pastor said, Abeni proudly wears a T-shirt that reads, “Oak Cliff, that’s my hood.”
Haynes said his daughter represents many young people from southern Dallas who feel a loyalty to the community where they grew up, but understand that their future lies somewhere else.
“I’ve spent 38 years pastoring here, and I’ve really seen a shift in terms of demographics,” Haynes said. “Young people grow up in our community, go off to college, and when they return, make choices to live elsewhere because of [the lack of] services and opportunity.”
Abeni’s T-shirt may be a symbol of one of the most vexing problems facing Dallas leaders: how to promote economic mobility for its residents without leaving parts of the city behind.
ORIGINAL RESEARCH article
- 1 Leadership for Educational Organizations, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, United States
- 2 Cherry Creek School District, Greenwood Village, CO, United States
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the globe, many schools struggled to react both quickly and adequately. Schools were one of the most important societal institutions to be affected by the pandemic. However, most school leaders have little to no training in crisis leadership, nor have they dealt with a crisis of this scale and this scope for this long. This article presents our findings from interviews of 43 school organizations around the globe about their responses during the early months of the pandemic. Primary themes from the interviews included an emphasis on vision and values communication and family community engagement staff care, instructional leadership, and organizational capacity-building equity-oriented leadership practices and recognition of potential future opportunities. These findings resonate with the larger research literature on crisis leadership and have important implications for school leaders’ future mindsets, behaviors, and support structures during crisis incidents.
Sugary drinks (also categorized as sugar-sweetened beverages or “soft” drinks) refer to any beverage with added sugar or other sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, and more). This includes soda, pop, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade (and other “ades”), sweetened powdered drinks, as well as sports and energy drinks.
As a category, these beverages are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the U.S. diet. [1, 2] In other parts of the world, particularly developing countries, sugary drink consumption is rising dramatically due to widespread urbanization and beverage marketing. 
How sweet is it?
Aside from soda, energy drinks have as much sugar as soft drinks, enough caffeine to raise your blood pressure, and additives whose long-term health effects are unknown. For these reasons, it’s best to skip energy drinks. The guide includes sports beverages as well. Although designed to give athletes carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluid during high-intensity workouts that last one hour or more, for everyone else they’re just another source of calories and sugar.
Drinks naturally high in sugar like 100% fruit juices are also featured. While juice often contains healthful nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, it should also be limited as it contains just as much sugar (though from naturally occurring fruit sugars) and calories as soft drinks.
Sugary drinks and health
When it comes to ranking beverages best for our health, sugary drinks fall at the bottom of the list because they provide so many calories and virtually no other nutrients. People who drink sugary beverages do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food, and research indicates they also don’t compensate for the high caloric content of these beverages by eating less food.  The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from added sugar. If you were to drink just one of these sugary drinks every day, and not cut back on calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year. Beyond weight gain, routinely drinking these sugar-loaded beverages can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Furthermore, higher consumption of sugary beverages has been linked with an increased risk of premature death. 
The more ounces of sugary beverages a person has each day, the more calories he or she takes in later in the day. This is the opposite of what happens with solid food, as people tend to compensate for a large meal by taking in fewer calories at a later meal. This compensatory effect doesn’t seem to be present after consuming soft drinks, for several possible reasons:
- Fluids don’t provide the same feeling of fullness or satisfaction as solid foods, as the body doesn’t “register” liquid calories as it does calories from solid food. This may prompt a person to keep eating even after intake of a high-calorie drink.
- It is possible that sweet-tasting soft drinks—regardless of whether they are sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free sugar substitute—might stimulate the appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods.
- Even though soda may contain more sugar than a cookie, because people think of soda as a drink and a cookie as a dessert they are more likely to limit food than beverages.
Dozens of studies have explored possible links between soft drinks and weight, and they consistently show that increased consumption of soft drinks is associated with increased energy (caloric) intake.
- One meta-analysis of 88 studies showed that the effect appeared to be stronger in women. 
- Studies in children and adults have found that reducing sugary drink consumption can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight. [6,7]
- An 18-month trial involving 641 primarily normal-weight children randomly assigned to receive either a sugar-free, artificially sweetened beverage (sugar-free group) or a similar sugar-containing beverage (sugar group) found that replacement of sugar-containing beverages with noncaloric beverages reduced weight gain and fat accumulation in the normal-weight children. 
- Other studies have found a significant link between sugary drink consumption and weight gain in children.  One study found that for each additional 12-ounce soda children consumed each day, the odds of becoming obese increased by 60% during 1½ years of follow-up. 
- A 20-year study on 120,000 men and women found that people who increased their sugary drink consumption by one 12-ounce serving per day gained more weight over time—on average, an extra pound every 4 years—than people who did not change their intake. 
- A groundbreaking study of 33,097 individuals showed that among people with a genetic predisposition for obesity, those who drank sugary drinks were more likely to be obese than those who did not.  This study is important because it suggests that genetic risk for obesity does not need to become a reality if healthy habits, like avoiding sugary drinks, are followed. On the other hand, genetic obesity risk seems to be amplified by consuming sugary drinks. Read an interview with the study’s lead researcher.
Alternatively, drinking water in place of sugary drinks or fruit juices is associated with lower long-term weight gain. 
People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.  Risks are even greater in young adults and Asians.
Strong evidence indicates that sugar-sweetened soft drinks contribute to the development of diabetes.
- The Nurses’ Health Study explored this connection by following the health of more than 90,000 women for eight years. The nurses who said they had one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes during the study than those who rarely had these beverages. 
- A similar increase in risk of diabetes with increasing soft drink and fruit drink consumption was seen recently in the Black Women’s Health Study, an ongoing long-term study of nearly 60,000 African-American women from all parts of the United States.  Interestingly, the increased risk with soft drinks was tightly linked to increased weight.
- In the Framingham Heart Study, men and women who had one or more soft drinks a day were 25 percent more likely to have developed trouble managing blood sugar and nearly 50 percent more likely to have developed metabolic syndrome. 
- A 2019 study looking at 22–26 years’ worth of data from more than 192,000 men and women participating in three long-term studies (the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study) found that increasing total sugary beverage intake—including both sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juice—by more than 4 ounces per day over a four-year period was associated with a 16% higher risk of type 2 diabetes in the following four years. 
- Increasing consumption of artificially sweetened beverages by more than 4 ounces per day over four years was linked with 18% higher diabetes risk, but the authors note these findings should be interpreted with caution due to the possibility of reverse causation (individuals already at high risk for diabetes may switch from sugary beverages to diet drinks) and surveillance bias (high-risk individuals are more likely to be screened for diabetes and thus diagnosed more rapidly).
- The study also found that drinking more artificially sweetened beverages in place of sugary beverages did not appear to lessen diabetes risk. However, replacing one daily serving of a sugary beverage with water, coffee, or tea was linked with a 2–10% lower risk of diabetes.
- A study that followed 40,000 men for two decades found that those who averaged one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks. 
- A related study in women found a similar sugary beverage–heart disease link. The Nurses’ Health Study, which tracked the health of nearly 90,000 women over two decades, found that women who drank more than two servings of sugary beverage each day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages. 
- People who drink a lot of sugary drinks often tend to weigh more—and eat less healthfully—than people who don’t drink sugary drinks, and the volunteers in the Nurses’ Health Study were no exception. But researchers accounted for differences in diet quality, energy intake, and weight among the study volunteers. They found that having an otherwise healthy diet, or being at a healthy weight, only slightly diminished the risk associated with drinking sugary beverages.
- This suggests that weighing too much, or simply eating too many calories, may only partly explain the relationship between sugary drinks and heart disease. Some risk may also be attributed to the metabolic effects of fructose from the sugar or HFCS used to sweeten these beverages.
- The adverse effects of the high glycemic load from these beverages on blood glucose, cholesterol fractions, and inflammatory factors probably also contribute to the higher risk of heart disease. Read more about blood sugar and glycemic load.
A 22-year-long study of 80,000 women found that those who consumed a can a day of sugary drink had a 75% higher risk of gout than women who rarely had such drinks.  Researchers found a similarly-elevated risk in men. 
Soda may pose a unique challenge to healthy bones:
- Soda contains high levels of phosphate.
- Consuming more phosphate than calcium can have a deleterious effect on bone health. 
- Getting enough calciumis extremely important during childhood and adolescence, when bones are being built.
- Soft drinks are generally devoid of calcium and other healthful nutrients, yet they are actively marketed to young age groups.
- Milk is a good source of calcium and protein, and also provides vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and other micronutrients.
- There is an inverse pattern between soft drink consumption and milk consumption – when one goes up, the other goes down. 
According to a large, long-term study of 37,716 men and 80,647 women in the U.S., the more sugary beverages people drink, the greater their risk of premature death — particularly from cardiovascular disease, and to a lesser extent from cancer. 
- After adjusting for major diet and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that the more sugary beverages a person drank, the more their risk of early death from any cause increased. Compared with drinking sugary beverages less than once per month, drinking one to four per month was linked with a 1% increased risk two to six per week with a 6% increase one to two per day with a 14% increase and two or more per day with a 21% increase. The increased early death risk linked with sugary drink consumption was more apparent among women than among men.
- There was a particularly strong link between drinking sugary beverages and increased risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. Compared with infrequent drinkers, those who drank two or more servings per day had a 31% higher risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. Each additional serving per day of sugary drink was linked with a 10% increased higher risk of cardiovascular disease-related death.
- Among both men and women, there was a modest link between consumption and early death risk from cancer.
- The study also found that drinking one artificially sweetened beverage per day instead of a sugary one lowered the risk of premature death. However, drinking four or more artificially sweetened beverages per day was associated with increased risk of mortality in women, so researchers cautioned against excessive consumption of artificially-sweetened beverages.
Sugary drink supersizing and the obesity epidemic
There is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases.  Unfortunately, sugary beverages are a regular drink of choice for millions around the world, and a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.
Compounding the problem is that sugary drink portion sizes have risen dramatically over the past 40 years, leading to increased consumption among children and adults:
- Before the 1950s, standard soft-drink bottles were 6.5 ounces. In the 1950s, soft-drink makers introduced larger sizes, including the 12-ounce can, which became widely available in 1960.  By the early 1990s, 20-ounce plastic bottles became the norm.  Today, contour-shaped plastic bottles are available in even larger sizes, such as 1-liter.
- In the 1970s, sugary drinks made up about 4% of U.S. daily calorie intake by 2001, that had risen to about 9%. 
- Children and youth in the US averaged 224 calories per day from sugary beverages in 1999 to 2004—nearly 11% of their daily calorie intake.  From 1989 to 2008, calories from sugary beverages increased by 60% in children ages 6 to 11, from 130 to 209 calories per day, and the percentage of children consuming them rose from 79% to 91%.  In 2005, sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) were the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day). 
- Although consumption of sugary drinks in the U.S. has decreased in the past decade,  half of the population consumes sugary drinks on a given day 1 in 4 people get at least 200 calories from such drinks and 5% get at least 567 calories—equivalent to four cans of soda.  These intake levels exceed dietary recommendations for consuming no more than 10% of total daily calories from added sugar 
- Globally, and in developing countries in particular, sugary drink consumption is rising dramatically due to widespread urbanization and beverage marketing. 
The role of sugary drink marketing
Beverage companies spend billions of dollars marketing sugary drinks, yet generally rebuffs suggestions that its products and marketing tactics play any role in the obesity epidemic. 
- In 2013, Coca-Cola launched an “anti-obesity” advertisement recognizing that sweetened soda and many other foods and drinks have contributed to the obesity epidemic. The company advertised its wide array of calorie-free beverages and encouraged individuals to take responsibility for their own drink choices and weight. Responses to the advertisement were mixed, with many experts calling it misleading and inaccurate in stating the health dangers of soda.
Adding to the confusion, studies funded by the beverage industry are four to eight times more likely to show a finding favorable to industry than independently-funded studies. 
It’s also important to note that a significant portion of sugary drink marketing is typically aimed directly at children and adolescents. 
- A 2019 analysis by the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that kids ages 2-11 saw twice as many ads for sugary drinks than for other beverages, and they also saw four times as many ads for certain drinks than adults did.  Researchers also analyzed nearly 70 “children’s drinks” (those marketed to parents and/or directly to children), and found that sweetened drinks contributed 62% of children’s drink sales in 2018, including $1.2 billion in fruit drinks (90% of children’s sweetened drink sales) and $146 million in flavored, sweetened water sales.
Cutting back on sugary drinks
When it comes to our health, it’s clear that sugary drinks should be avoided. There is a range of healthier beverages that can be consumed in their place, with water being the top option.
Of course, if you’re a frequent soda drinker, this is easier said than done. If it’s the carbonation you like, give sparkling water a try. If the taste is too bland, try a naturally flavored sparkling water. If that’s still too much of a jump, add a splash of juice, sliced citrus, or even some fresh herbs. You can do this with home-brewed tea as well, like this sparkling iced tea with lemon, cucumber, and mint.
What about “diet” sodas or other drinks with low-calorie sweeteners?
Action beyond the individual level
Reducing our preference for sweet beverages will require concerted action on several levels—from creative food scientists and marketers in the beverage industry, as well as from individual consumers and families, schools and worksites, and state and federal government. We must work together toward this worthy and urgent cause: alleviating the cost and the burden of chronic diseases associated with the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the U.S. and around the world. Fortunately, sugary drinks are a growing topic in policy discussions both nationally and internationally. Learn more about how different stakeholders can take action against sugary drinks.
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Current Resident : I𠆝 say this town is very normal, the things I love are down town long grove and the schools which are full of opportunities. My family moved for a larger house with more space and a good school, this area has both. We live a 5 minute drive away from down town long grove, which has three amazing fun festivals a year which include food and fun with your friends. Also the school district is really good, most/if not all of the students attend Stevenson High school, an amazing school full of great opportunities! I like this area overall, as you can see there are many upsides to living here. However it’s a small town, so I wouldn’t say the area is for everyone, and I’ve always loved the big cities.
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Current Resident : When first getting to know the Village of Lincolnshire, the most obvious factor is sense of comfort that the community radiates. On special occasions and holidays, the village often also hosts community friendly events that connects everyone together. The stores and restaurants within the community are also very sanitary, welcoming, and family friendly which people love to enjoy and spend time at. Typically, the community is very safe with police guarding the community and the people there willing to protect each other. It has been an amazing experience living here and making all the wonderful memories.
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Healthiest Schools: Miami Springs Middle
Healthy reform at this large, urban middle school started in the cafeteria, which eliminated all white-flour products, former principal Gail Quigley, EdD, says. “We dont serve dessert or fried food, and we offer a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Sugary cereals have been banned from breakfast. And all à la carte items meet the stringent criteria of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization devoted to ending childhood obesity. 𠇎xcellent, and at first difficult, choices are being made about the foods served by the school,” nutrition panelist Lanou says.
Equally impressive is the effort at the staff level: Health education thats blended into the science curriculum caught the eye of judge Martin, who called it 𠇊 creative way to instill healthy habits in students.” Plus, the teachers have set up a gym in their lounge, and they attend on-site Weight Watchers classes and participate in a walking club.
Healthiest: #11 Oakland, California
The city of Oakland scored an impressive 68.5 points. According to the survey, lots of its citizens walk often, reaping all the health benefits of this low-intensity exercise. The city is home to many parks, and a majority of its citizens are in good health. According to some foodies, it’s also an incredibly underrated city for food and entertainment. If you live there or are planning on taking a visit, you might want to put Zachary’s Pizza on your itinerary. Though it’s not the healthiest thing this city has to offer, they reportedly have some of the best deep-dish pizza outside of Chicago.
Men and Women
26. Should it be legal for a teenage girl to have her breasts surgically removed because she identifies as a male—or should there be a minimum age of 18 or 21?
27. Schoolteachers have been told to stop calling students “boys and girls” because a student might not identify as either male or female. Do you agree with this policy?
28. Should biological males who identify as females be allowed to compete against biological females in sports?
29. Is the statement, “Men give birth” science-based?
30. Do you agree with the practice of inviting a drag queen into public libraries and elementary school classrooms to conduct a “Drag Queen Story Hour”?
These migrants teens have advice for Kamala Harris as she visits the Guatemala they fled
EL PASO — Immigrant rights experts and migrants stuck here on the border have some advice for Kamala Harris as the vice president visits Guatemala and Mexico this week to seek answers to the root causes of migration: don’t overthink it.
“Help us create jobs, stop corruption,” said Ezer, detained by U.S. authorities after crossing the border at age 17. “That’s what I would tell the government because that’s what we all know.”
Ezer is one of four migrant teens recently interviewed by The Dallas Morning News who turned 18 while in custody and ‘aged out’ — all were released on their shared birthday from an emergency shelter for migrant children at Fort Bliss to temporary housing at the Annunciation House nonprofit center.
Manix, another of the teens, said he hopes to work in the United States for three or four years and then return home with enough money to run his own grocery store. “Pressure our authorities to make Guatemala safe,” he urged.
The four teenagers shared their stories and offered advice for Harris on the condition that their full names not be published, citing security concerns for their families back in Guatemala. The young men represent the very people who the Biden administration is trying to keep from leaving Guatemala by offering them a glimmer of hope in their native land.
Harris arrived Sunday evening in Guatemala on her first trip abroad as vice president to highlight the Biden administration’s efforts to find solutions to the ongoing humanitarian crisis that’s bedeviled the last three U.S. presidencies.
She’s scheduled to meet with Guatemalan political and civic leaders Monday before departing to meet Mexican leaders in Mexico City on Tuesday. The trip is part of an effort to curtail the highest levels of migration in 20 years as a record number of children and teens cross the border, many without parents.
In advance of the Harris trip, White House officials said the Biden administration’s strategy “will involve significant commitments of U.S. government resources” to promote “economic opportunity, strengthen governance, combat corruption, and improve security” in Central America. The administration is urging the private sector to invest more in the region to generate jobs for the local population.
The Biden administration is also pledging hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines for Central America and a $4 billion long-term boost to development and security across the region, which suffers from high crime rates and economic devastation from the virus and recent natural disasters.
“I think there is this tension between telling Central Americans what the U.S. government is willing to do, but also hearing from Central Americans what they think the priorities should be,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. “And hopefully [Harris] can balance that in some way.”
In Mexico, Harris is expected to arrive just 24 hours or so after millions went to the polls in the biggest-ever midterm election, which has polarized the country and will help define President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s final three year in office.
Last week, the White House announced that Mexico would receive a million vaccine doses from the U.S., coincidentally as López Obrador works to stop the flow of migrants headed for the United States. He’s mobilized thousands of national guardsmen across the country, underscoring Mexico’s bargaining power as the Biden administration strives to get a handle on the flow of immigrants, a politically fraught issue that threatens to overshadow his young presidency.
At the international crossings into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, checkpoints manned by guardsmen create long lines as vehicles are stopped and checked for immigration papers.
The militarization is even more evident on Mexico’s southern border.
Here in El Paso, leading immigrant rights advocates applaud Harris’ visit to Guatemala and Mexico, but also stress that while the dynamics are complex, the Biden administration can make meaningful progress by acknowledging long festering issues, such as endemic corruption in the region and the U.S.’s long history of meddling in past Central American conflicts.
“Both sides need to be blunt with one another, especially as the United States figures out who exactly will be their partner in this difficult task,” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, the El Paso nonprofit providing temporary shelter for migrants and refugees. The nonprofit has played a key role in housing tens of thousands of Central American migrants passing through the area in recent years.
For decades, people along the border have felt they’re at the center of a polarized political battleground oppressed by shifting geopolitical tensions. Leaders on the border, from human rights activists to mayors and county judges, have long insisted that the so-called crisis isn’t so much on the border but back in Washington where lack of political will and sole focus on deterrence has led to walls, increasing militarization and controversial policies like separating families at the border.
All the while, the cycles of poverty grow south of the border, forcing entire families to flee, reminiscent of previous waves of migrants from Ireland or Italy. The story is old, they said.
“If you still don’t know what Central America is all about, you’ve missed the boat,” Garcia said. “But if you’re going to go down precisely because you know what it’s about, and you need to sit down and you need to speak to these presidents, then that’s a very different kind of a trip, because part of what Harris needs to acknowledge is corruption starts at the very top.”
Garcia added he’d advise Harris and her staff to “identify all the key NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and then set up a meeting. Close the door. Let no media in and have everybody sign a nondisclosure agreement so that people could speak freely. . And, come up with some ideas on how to channel money so that money doesn’t end up in the wrong hands,” as history has shown it often does.
Marisa Limón Garza, deputy director of Hope Border Institute, agreed. She called on Harris to “chart a new path and direct her focus on grassroots and faith-based organizations in close contact with real everyday people,” adding that U.S. Agency for International Development dollars need to be committed to NGO groups that “voice the needs for their communities.”
“We know that militarization and deterrence just increase the strain,” she said. “We must reckon with the U.S.’s involvement in Central America and take responsibility to meaningfully address the root causes of migration.”
The four Guatemalan teens celebrated their birthdays on their own. They spoke about their experiences at Fort Bliss, with Ezer expressing “gratitude for the hospitality.”
Despite reports about overcrowding and shoddy conditions at some emergency shelters set up for the large numbers of unaccompanied migrant teens, all said they had been treated well at Fort Bliss, although they were unhappy with how long they’ve been detained. One was there for two weeks. Two were there for 10 days.
Ezer was there for 46 days. “Too long,” he said. “But I made friends and ate well.”
Overall, they downplayed concerns about living conditions, which Garcia said didn’t surprise him.
“It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said. “They come from very little.”
All four spoke of the reasons behind their decisions to leave, pointing to lack of safety and no apparent future back home. All four said they’d like to return to Guatemala someday to reunite with family and in the hopes that their country becomes a place not so much to “thrive, but simply to live and work without fear and be with family,” said Brayan, one of the four migrant teens.
The four conceded that as they turned 18, they couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for home. Sebas, an indigenous Guatemalan who speaks little Spanish, turned teary-eyed as Manix made a beeline for a guitar in the corner and began playing the Guatemalan version of “Happy Birthday.”
As he played, he said he hopes the Biden administration and leaders back in Central America find a way to “fix the future. Not so much for us, but for the next generation.”
Nutrition Education in US Schools
Schools play an important role in helping students establish healthy eating behaviors, by providing:
- Nutritious and appealing foods and beverages.
- Consistent and accurate messages about good nutrition.
- Ways to learn about and practice healthy eating. 1
Nutrition education is a vital part of a comprehensive health education program and empowers children with knowledge and skills to make healthy food and beverage choices. 2-8
US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, 9 far below the 40 to 50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change. 10,11 Additionally, the percentage of schools providing required instruction on nutrition and dietary behaviors decreased from 84.6% to 74.1% between 2000 and 2014. 9
Given the important role that diet plays in preventing chronic diseases and supporting good health, schools would ideally provide students with more hours of nutrition education instruction and engage teachers and parents in nutrition education activities. 5, 12 Research shows that nutrition education can teach students to recognize how healthy diet influences emotional well-being and how emotions may influence eating habits. However, because schools face many demands, school staff can consider ways to add nutrition education into the existing schedule. 11
Nutrition education can be incorporated throughout the school day and in various locations within a school. This provides flexibility allowing schools to use strategies that work with their settings, daily schedule, and resources.
In the Classroom
Nutrition education can take place in the classroom, either through a stand-alone health education class or combined into other subjects including 2,5 :
- Counting with pictures of fruits and vegetables.
- Learning fractions by measuring ingredients for a recipe.
- Examining how plants grow.
- Learning about cultural food traditions.
Nutrition education should align with the National Health Education Standards and incorporate the characteristics of an effective health education curriculum.
Farm to School
Farm-to-school programs vary in each school or district, but often include one or more of the following strategies:
- Purchasing and serving local or regionally produced foods in the school meal programs.
- Educating students about agriculture, food, health, and nutrition.
- Engaging students in hands-on learning opportunities through gardening, cooking lessons, or farm field trips.
Students who participate in farm-to-school activities have increased knowledge about nutrition and agriculture, are more willing to try new foods, and consume more fruits and vegetables. 14-17
School garden programs can increase students&rsquo nutrition knowledge, willingness to try fruit and vegetables, and positive attitudes about fruits and vegetables. 18-22 School gardens vary in size and purpose. Schools may have window sill gardens, raised beds, greenhouses, or planted fields.
Students can prepare the soil for the garden, plant seeds, harvest the fruits and vegetables, and taste the food from the garden. Produce from school gardens can be incorporated into school meals or taste tests. Classroom teachers can teach lessons in math, science, history, and language arts using the school garden.
In the Cafeteria
Cafeterias are learning labs where students are exposed to new foods through the school meal program, see what balanced meals look like, and may be encouraged to try new foods through verbal prompts from school nutrition staff, 23 or taste tests. 24-25 Cafeterias may also be decorated with nutrition promotion posters or student artwork promoting healthy eating. 24
Other Opportunities During the School Day
Schools can add messages about nutrition and healthy eating into the following:
- Morning announcements.
- School assemblies.
- Materials sent home to parents and guardians. 24
- Staff meetings.
- Parent-teacher group meetings.
These strategies can help reinforce messages about good nutrition and help ensure that students see and hear consistent information about healthy eating across the school campus and at home. 2