Healthy Schools

Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 (2017-2022)

The Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 program’s long-term goal is to improve health literacy and prevent obesity in elementary school students in Washington, DC. To achieve this goal, the program team designs, implements, and evaluates a set of research, education, and extension activities in elementary schools in Washington, DC.

The primary activity is the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development (PD) series for teachers that will educate them on integrating nutrition concepts into the classroom. This learning will extend beyond the school walls through school-wide events that include families, such as after-school events including Martha’s Table Joyful Food Markets. Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 will engage teachers as championed community members of change by creating a culture of health within their classrooms and schoolhouses.

Healthy Schoolhouse School Years

  • Expand online training modules to offer five PD sessions on demand for professional learning units
  • Provide nutrition education resources and materials to schools upon request with adaptations for virtual implementation
  • Thorough data analysis and interpretation of results 
  • Disseminate results and findings to targeted local and national audiences
  • Recruit second control school
  • Implement Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 program with two intervention and two control schools
  • Develop online training modules to deliver PD sessions on demand for continuing education units
  • Recruit second intervention school
  • Implement Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 program with two intervention and one control schools
  • Recruit and implement Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 program in ne intervention and one control school

DCCK - Healthy School Meals (2021-2023)

In partnership with DC Central Kitchen and United HealthCare, Healthy School Meals is a two-year mixed-methods implementation research project using innovative behavioral economics approaches to evaluate student progress in knowledge, skills, and behavior relating to healthy eating in a school environment.

  • Year 1 of the project utilized an ‘appetizer’ approach to support increased consumption of fruits and vegetables at lunch time. The findings suggest offering fruits and vegetables prior to a meal may be effective in increasing consumption
    • For students consuming all their carrots, the consumption rate increased from 6.1% with the meal to 18.4% before the meal.
    • The rate of students who consumed half of their carrots increased from 7.6% with the meal to 17.2% before the meal.
    • With baby carrots, selection increased from 81.5% with the meal to 95.6% prior to the meal.
  • Year 2: Results pending

Today's Challenges

1 of 5 US children are defined as obese in 2014; 21.4% of DC youth are obese, $177 billion is spent annually on related costs.

Behind the basic facts of US childhood obesity lurk numerous factors, of which teacher preparedness and empowerment is but one. A 2012 survey of DC middle school teachers revealed that

  • 94% believe teaching health education in schools is important
  • 94% believe a student’s health status can impact academic achievement
  • 35% reported feeling prepared, empowered, or able to integrate health education into their current curricula

What We've Found

Through a five-year study of school-based wellness legislation, we found The Healthy Schools Act (HSA) of 2010 has had a positive impact on the school environment — see more about our Healthy Schools projects.

Findings include 50% of schools in DC with community gardens.

Past Projects

In response to increased interest in plant-based meal offerings, DC Public Schools is seeking to measure consumption of current vegetarian menu offerings and taste test additional vegetarian and plant-based meal offerings in five elementary schools. Based on taste test feedback, the winning menu items will be incorporated into the standard menu offerings and consumption data will be collected again as a comparison. Analysis, evaluation and recommendations will be provided for continuing expansion of menu offerings that achieve the triple aim of responding to consumer interests, increasing student participation in the National School Lunch Program, and improving child nutrition through exposure to foods that are proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.

families learning how to cook healthy meals The goal of this work is to gather extensive feedback and insight from Washington, DC community members that will inform future nutrition education programming. Working with Dr. Elizabeth Cotter, PI of Common Threads' Community Insight Grant, we are completing this project in three phases. Phase 1 is focused on interview protocol development and staff training. Phase 2 is focused on completion of the focus groups and interviews. Phase 3 is focused on analyzing the data and disseminating the results. Results indicate that DC residents see the value in developing hands-on cooking skills. Nutrition education programs might consider: 1) more holistic approaches to health that consider experiences of stress and emotional well-being; 2) partnerships with likeminded, longstanding DC institutions; and 3) the use of technology to disseminate cooking information, to further engage residents in this type of programming.