"We try to take care of our children because they are our children."

Josyln Allen, principal at Morven Elementary School in Anson County, makes it easy to understand when she explains that parents, teachers and school leaders work together to take care of the children, because “… they are our children.”

During the 2009-2010 school year, 76 percent of Anson County students received free or reduced-price lunches. That statistic alone – more than double the national average of 30 percent – underscores the critical need for schools to encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles to support their growing minds. The North Carolina Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) recognizes those challenges, and is working through its Just ASK (Advocates, Schools, Kids) program supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to train parents and teachers to advocate for healthier school environments.

Through support from the NCPTA, Morven and three other schools in rural Anson County developed school wellness teams, assessed school needs, and created an advocacy and action plan to improve healthful living in the school. All four schools implemented at least two policy or environmental changes such as: eliminating unhealthy fundraisers; incorporating health into staff development; integrating classroom physical activity as a part of teacher assessment; improving playgrounds; adding walking trails; and removing fryers from the cafeteria.

For Principal Allen, the results are obvious. “We have increased greatly as far as our test scores are concerned and academics, and without the healthy food and the physical activity, I don’t think some of the children would do as well as they’re doing.”

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