Originally published Oct. 14, 2021 in The Altavista Journal.

The Virginia Department of Education's Office of School Nutrition Programs is partnering with the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to launch the Governor's Scorecard on Nutrition and Physical Activity for schools in Virginia.

The scorecard measures efforts taken beyond requirements to promote a culture of health and wellness through food quality, participation in school meals programs, health and physical education, and physical activity.

"It was my joy to launch the Governor's Scorecard on Nutrition and Physical Activity to support schools in their mission to encourage children to lead healthier lives,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “This Scorecard aims to enhance the wellness culture in Virginia schools by identifying national best practices, establishing benchmarks, and providing recognition to schools that are going above and beyond to ensure students have access to healthy food and lots of time to exercise.”

One out of three children in the United States is obese or overweight. Virginia currently ranks 34th in the nation for childhood obesity in 10- to 17-year-olds, and 28th in the nation for high school obesity. In Virginia, 30.6% of high school students are obese or overweight. The prevalence of obesity among high school students in Virginia is 14.8%, the same as the national rate.

Childhood obesity can lead to serious, lifelong, and life-threatening health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, problems that were once only seen in adult populations. Experts fear that due to the obesity epidemic, this may be the first generation of children to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

“Promoting the physical and emotional wellbeing of students is now widely recognized as a core mission of public schools in Virginia and across the nation,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “The new Governor’s Scorecard on Nutrition and Physical Activity will advance this mission by incentivizing schools and school divisions to exceed minimum state and federal requirements in providing nutritious meals throughout the year and by engaging students in opportunities during and outside of the school day that promote physical fitness and good health.”

"The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth applauds the launching of the Governor's Scorecard. This is a great tool to encourage schools to empower youth to make healthy choices each day," VFHY Executive Director Marty Kilgore said.

The Governor's Scorecard – originally launched in 2005 as part of Governor Mark Warner's Healthy Virginians Initiative – replaces the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthier US School Challenge, identifies best practices and provides recognition to schools that exceed minimum requirements related to nutrition and physical activity.

The updated version of the scorecard, launched October 12, has criteria designed to incentivize schools to make changes in instruction, policy, support services and practices that are required to make progress towards meeting the state Board of Education's objective of achieving equity in opportunities and outcomes for all students.

Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s current obesity prevention initiatives are aligned with and support the measures outlined in the Governor’s Scorecard. This includes Rev Your Bev, a campaign implemented by its youth-led program, Y Street, that works to increase the access, availability, and promotion of water within Virginia’s schools, and existing best practices implemented by its Healthy Community Action Teams grants.

“Healthy school meals are an integral part of education – supporting academic achievement and overall student well-being,” VDOE School Nutrition Programs Director Sandra Curwood said. “The Governor’s Scorecard assists with benchmarking best practices, identifying growth opportunities, and recognizing excellence.”

The Virginia Office of School Nutrition Programs strives to:

  • Ensure every Virginia child has equitable access to healthy food options in the child nutrition programs and opportunities for nutrition education;
  • Place a spotlight on significance of school nutrition in improving health and supporting academic outcomes; and
  • Provide guidance, training, and technical assistance to schools and divisions.

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    Virginia Department of Education encourages schools to do more to promote student health and physical activity.
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