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Garrett Morgan gets gold for healthy ways

Garrett Morgan High School’s emphasis on healthy living for students, staff and the community has earned it top honors in a highly competitive national program.
The school is the first-ever gold-award winner from Ohio in the Healthy Schools Program since it was launched in 2006. The program evaluates the ways schools promote nutrition, health education and physical activity and create a healthy environment for students and staff.

Five other CMSD schools earned bronze status: Campus International, Joseph Gallagher, Charles Dickens, the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine and Willson.

Thousands of schools participate in Healthy Schools, but only small percentage win recognition. While 328 schools received honors this year, only 14 got the gold.

Some ingredients in Garrett Morgan’s winning recipe include:

• Strong policies and guidelines that include not using food or physical activity as a reward or withholding it as a punishment. All food in vending machines or served at school events qualifies as healthy.

• Students increased the amount of fruit and vegetables in their diets and made smoothies with NutriBullets that the manufacturer provided as part of a grant.

• In partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Garrett Morgan volunteered to be one of five schools operating community food pantries as part of the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities initiative. Families can get fresh fruits and vegetables two times a month and receive instruction in how to use and prepare the foods.

• The school has expanded physical education to all grade levels, offers yoga, Zumba and fitness classes and created an indoor walking track.

• Staff members follow the food guidelines, participate in the fitness activities and volunteer for the food distribution.

School nurse Sherdina Williams served as the point person for the initiatives but said teachers and other staff joined in and made healthy habits a group effort.

Teachers incorporated recipes and terminology in math and other subjects. Yoga classes helped students with socialization and focus. A parent ran the food pantry. Staff members served on a wellness committee and joined students in working at the food distributions held on second and fourth Friday of every month.

High school participation in the Healthy Schools Program is rare, Williams said. But she said older students should be a critical focus.

“These are future parents,” she said. “Some of them are already young adults, 18 and 19 years old. They’re going to become independent.”

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation oversees the program. The American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation founded the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help fight child obesity.

The Alliance’s Zerrine Bailey works full time with CMSD schools to encourage healthy living. The United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Mt. Sinai Health Care and St. Luke’s foundations pay her salary.