The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model calls for collaboration across the community, school, and health sectors to meet the needs and support the full potential of each child. A school wellness council is vital to the success of a school district’s healthy living initiatives; members of a school wellness council are responsible for the development, planning, and implementation of wellness programs and oversight of policy revision and maintenance. An effective wellness council is diverse and comprises district wide representation, including but not limited to, administration, teachers, coaches, students, food service personnel, and community members. Many schools cite lack of resources, time, and capacity as barriers to establishing and sustaining active wellness councils, and therefore, wellness in their schools becomes a low priority. Easton Area School District and Bangor Area School district have developed an innovative and effective approach to the development and institution of their respective councils.
The Building Healthy Schools (BHS) grant program, created in part by the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, aligns hands-on technical assistance with high-need districts to develop and sustain active and engaged wellness councils and champions and develop strong and supportive local wellness policies. At the beginning of the grant program, both districts lacked an active wellness council;* however, both school districts have strived for more regular meetings and recruited new members. As a result, both districts now have wellness councils that have wide representation and greater than 10 members. Strong collaboration and communication between council members and administration has resulted in policy that allows for members to participate in wellness council meetings during the school day through to the provision of substitutes for their classrooms. These measures ensure that other competing demands do not discourage participation in the wellness council, and offer each committee member scheduled time during each month to reflect on wellness goals and initiatives district-wide. Not only does this eliminate key barriers to sustainability of their wellness council, but it highlights the value the district places on wellness.