5W Wednesday: Project Healthy Schools

Our 5W Wednesday series highlights a variety of health care organizations, professionals and programs that keep our community healthy.

Who are they?
Project Healthy Schools is a community-university collaborative that developed from recognizing the need to fight the battle against childhood obesity. They strive to improve the present and future health of middle school students through school-based education and environmental initiatives, focusing on influencing and improving health behaviors with five goals:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Make better beverage choices
  • Perform at least 150 minutes of exercise each week
  • East less fast and fatty foods
  • Spend less mindless time in front of the TV and computer screen

Why are these services needed?
Dramatic increases in childhood obesity mean that, for the first time in American history, children may live shorter lives than their parents.  Over 9 million children in the U.S. are overweight or obese and, if this trend continues, 80% of these children will become obese adults, experiencing numerous health risks and complications. In addition, the onset of obesity-related complications, like Type II Diabetes, is occurring at younger ages. As a state, Michigan is struggling with obesity. It ranks 9th worst in the country for obesity rates, and cardiovascular disease is the cause of 1 out of every 3 deaths in Michigan.

When is the best time for a child to learn about nutrition?
Obesity is preventable and health professionals believe that the best way to fight obesity is to start teaching healthy behaviors in childhood. Since 99% of all children ages 7-12 are enrolled in school, a school-based program can widely disseminate knowledge on nutrition and the importance of physical activity.

What do they do?
Project Healthy Schools’ program offers students hands-on activities, motivational assemblies, healthier options in the cafeteria and vending machines, and an opportunity to earn rewards by recording healthy lunch choices and exercise minutes.  Other aspects of the program include student behavior questionnaires, health screenings, and parent communication.

One way that PHS has increased students’ access to healthy food choices in schools has been through the creation of a Farm to School Program in collaboration with Food System Economic Partnership.  Farm Fresh Fridays included a fall offering of locally grown produce in the cafeteria as well as Farmer Presentations in the classroom that taught students about fresh fruits and vegetables, from farm to table. The Farm to School Program began in Ann Arbor and Chelsea schools with plans to expand into more schools throughout the 5-county region, emphasizing the Detroit area.

Where can you find them?
Project Healthy Schools is hard at work in schools across Michigan. Participating schools include all five Ann Arbor middle schools, East and West middle schools in Ypsilanti, U Prep and U Prep Science and Math in Detroit, Corunna Middle School, Owosso Bryant Elementary School and St. Paul’s Catholic School. You can also find them online and on facebook.

For more information about Childhood Obesity visit:

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