From being named the healthiest county in the state five years in a row to being home to a top-notch hospital, most people who live in Forsyth County have a good quality of life, but one elementary school stands out from the rest, after being named one of 323 of America’s healthiest schools.
Brandywine Elementary School, which is located in southwest Forsyth, recently received a bronze level award by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that empowers children to develop lifelong, healthy habits.
The school and 322 others came from 30 states throughout the country and Washington D.C., with nearly half of all recognized schools hailing from Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona.
Cate Hernandez, Brandywine’s physical education specialist and wellness champion, said to receive the bronze award, schools have to meet certain criteria including at least 60 minutes of physical education per week —Brandywine currently requires 85 — certain federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks, staff wellness and family and community involvement and have a school wellness team.
“Most of the county schools meet the nutrition standards, but [Alliance] also scrutinizes people bringing in treats,” she said. “Basically, we had to jump through all these hoops and prove that we’re doing all these things to get the award. We also have a school garden where we provide taste tests, so that helped, and we’re getting ready to implement a smoothie program in the school with a $4,000 grant from a dairy association.”
The school also recently received $2,000 to promote recess activity.
Hernandez said the award is a great feat for the school, which is only in its second year of existence, and also serves as a motivator for students, faculty and staff.
“As the school’s wellness champion, I love that we’ve [gotten] the award because it changes people’s mindsets,” she said. “The award itself is wonderful and we’re getting ready to get a big banner, but I can already see how it’s changing people’s mindsets.
“I’ve had staff members come up to me saying, ‘I did my miles and whatever number of steps today,’ and it just motivates students and staff to eat healthier and get physical activity in every single day, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Hernandez said the school can do even better.
“Next year, we’re going to try to strive for silver level,” she said. “There are more expectations, and we’re falling short on several things — namely, we’re having too many celebrations with unhealthy foods.
“The silver level award [requires] a higher level of nutrition and physical activity and we’re almost there, but we could definitely do more and we’ll definitely continue with the initiative.”