Pathways Grant purchases water filling stations and water bottles for USD 431
Physical fitness and proper nutrition play a key role in the development and success of students in an educational environment. For the past decade, the USD 431 Wellness Committee has made great strides in working to better their schools through nutrition and physical activity; but in the last year, they have positioned themselves as leaders among Kansas schools when it comes to wellness throughout the district.
The USD 431 Wellness Committee was formed in hopes of making health and wellness a priority throughout the district, not only for students, but for faculty and staff as well. Since the committee’s formation, many changes have been made district-wide to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Some of those changes include eliminating soda machines in all schools, promoting Wellness Wednesday, and requiring all outside food and drinks that are brought into the school to be in unlabeled packaging.
One of the main focuses for USD 431’s Wellness Committee was to become a “modeling” school district according to the Kansas School Wellness Policy Model guidelines. To become a “modeling” district, the wellness committee had to demonstrate that the wellness policies and practices implemented by the district were highly effective. The committee recently completed all of the steps necessary to become a “modeling” school. Completing this goal meant the committee was eligible to apply for a $20,000 nutrition grant available through the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant awarded to Hoisington and the Northern Barton County communities in 2016.
“We envision Kansans living in healthy communities that provide the highest possible quality of life and well-being,” said Virginia Barnes, Director of Blue Health Initiatives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS). “The investments we are supporting through Pathways to a Healthy Kansas with community partnerships, such as the one with Clara Barton and the USD 431 Wellness Committee, are positively impacting youth to help ensure healthier Kansans in the future.”
The Pathways grant is the largest community grant program ever funded by BCBSKS. The program provides community coalitions with the tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage the community in ways that enable healthy eating and active living to become a way of life.
“Our biggest achievement so far has been the Pathways Grant,” said Krisa Schneider, third grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary and Chairman of the USD 431 Wellness Committee. “The $20,000 grant was a huge accomplishment for us. It allowed us to install water bottle filling stations in all of the buildings throughout the district and provide each of our students with a clear water bottle.”
Installing water filling stations in the Hoisington schools had been a wellness committee goal for many years, but in the past that project was not financially possible. The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Grant helped to make the committee’s dream a reality.
“There is a lot of research out there about the correlation between hydration and brain activity, said Schneider. “Water helps to enhance the learning process, and helping our students to enhance their knowledge is our top priority. That is why we were so passionate about getting the filling stations in our schools.”
The water filling stations were installed in all USD 431 schools – one at Roosevelt, three at the middle school, four at the high school – as well as two additional units at the activity center.
The water filling stations were purchased through A&F Enterprises, a local business providing plumbing, heating and air conditioning services. The company also assembled and installed the units.
“A&F Enterprises was an incredible partner to work with throughout the course of this project,” said Schneider. “They worked quickly to get the units installed as soon as possible and even came in after school hours to ensure there was no disruption to our normal school day.”
The filling stations provide students and staff with easy access to cold, filtered water allowing them to quickly and easily fill their bottles without the added mess.
“The implementation of the water filling stations has been great and the kids have been drinking a lot more water,” said Schneider. “They especially like using the filling stations to fill their new water bottles.”
The water bottles were purchased for every K-12 student within USD 431. The district’s policy allows students to bring a clear water bottle into the classroom for water. The students are not required to bring their bottles to school every day, but they are encouraged to do so.
One stipulation to receive the grant required that the project be sustainable. The committee was able to purchase enough bottles to supply the incoming Kindergarten class with water bottles for the next five years.
“The kids love being able to have their very own water bottle right at their desk,” said Schneider. “Being able to provide every student with a bottle has been especially great for those students who didn’t have a clear bottle to bring to school or didn’t have the ability to purchase one.”
The filling stations are not only being used during the school day, but they are also being used during after-school activities. The football, volleyball, and cross country teams have taken advantage of the water filling stations, using them to fill their water bottles before practices and games. Many community members have also been able to utilize the filling stations while using the fitness center and walking track at the Hoisington Activity Center.
“The addition of the water filling stations has been an outstanding accomplishment.” said Schneider. “Pushing health and wellness is extremely important to us as a district, because it will have long-term effects on our students as we prepare them to make good choices as they grow older and develop into young adults.“