Creating a Public School Wellness Coordinator
As you all know, one of the goals of the NYC Healthy School Food Alliance's is to advocate to put a school garden in every school in the city. I spent some time chatting with Kristen Fields at Grow NYC and the lovely women at Edible Schoolyard and the feeling is that universal gardens is a great goal and one that is proven to impact healthful eating and common core learning, but one that really cannot be effectively sustained without a person to make sure that garden continues to grow.
The thing about gardens is that they are living and they need to be cared for. It's not going to do that on its own. In essence, what Edible and Grow NYC both said is that it’s easy to get a school garden going, it can be as small an investment as a mini-grant from Grow NYC, to get a raised bed or a grow tower ($2000). But the problem is keeping it going.
We all feel the solution is a Wellness Coordinator at every school. This is a position we also proposed to City Council a few weeks ago to help coordinate and implement nutrition education programs in schools. We see this as a new position, similar to a parent coordinator. We feel the creation of that role would be key. While we are working out the specifics of the job description, in essence this person would be responsible for coordinating all wellness programming from nutrition to gardening to mindfulness etc, and also maintaining the garden and making sure it was used and cared for.
The takeaway is that this Wellness Coordinator role would be critical to add to the DOE headcount. We have shared this ask with City Council and are meeting with Council Majority Leader Laurie Combo and Speaker Corey Johnson's policy director about this idea. We believe it would benefit more than just the gardens, would really give every school a person to advocate for and implement wellness programming so it would not just be the schools with a strong parent involvement who get great programs, it would be all schools.