Mt. Healthy City Schools (MTHCS) has been a WeTHRIVE! school district since March 2017. The district’s wellness team started in 2006, but was re-energized two years ago under the leadership of Fredrika Richardson, the district’s food service director. With assistance from Kim Chelf, health educator with Hamilton County Public Health, the team is making a difference in the health and wellbeing of Mt. Healthy students and families.
How Mt. Healthy Schools THRIVE!:
- Food Security is a Priority: Since MTHCS adopted the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), school breakfast and lunch are free to ALL students. But the district did not stop there. In December 2017, the wellness team established an at-risk dinner program that feeds 70-125 students per day. In addition, the food pantry at Mt. Healthy Jr/Sr High School serves 35 or more families per month. “We take food insecurity very seriously and it’s very important to me that all of our kids get fed,” said Fredrika Richardson, food service director and chair of the wellness team.
- CATCH: Elementary school teachers are continuing CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) training, which began at the end of the 2016-17 school year. CATCH is a curriculum that teaches children to identify healthy foods and increases the amount of physical activity children engage in each day.
- Psychological Services: The wellness team works closely with the Basic Needs Committee, which is part of Education Destination, the district’s 5-year strategic plan. Together, the committees conducted a survey to identify parent needs. They found that lack of transportation makes it hard for parents to access psychological services for their children, especially those who take ADHD medication and need to keep prescriptions current. “Transportation is a very big issue here in our district,” Fredrika said. “So we are in the process of trying to get psychological services here in the district, so that way kids…can be continuously on their meds and hopefully perform better in school.”
- Helping Parents: The district knows that many parents do not have transportation to attend parent-teacher conferences and other activities. It has purchased vans and is working on a plan to utilize them to help parents get to school. “We are trying to put good things in place,” Fredrika said. “But if the parents can’t get to us, they’re not going to be able to take advantage of it.”
- Parent Engagement: The wellness team is always looking for ways to get parents involved and make them aware of its efforts. The team participates in activities where they can meet parents, such as springtime fairs held at the elementary schools and the junior/senior high school.
- Safe Routes to School (SRTS): In 2017, MTHCS partnered with the City of Mt. Healthy to complete a SRTS School Travel Plan. The city received SRTS funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation for engineering improvements like sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals. “This year, we are looking into furthering this to get a grant for non-infrastructure type things,” Fredrika said.
- School Health Index: The wellness team is currently completing the School Health Index. “When that’s done, we can make some more plans, try to see the areas where we’re falling short in,” Fredrika said.
Q&A with Fredrika Richardson, food service director/chair of wellness team:
How has being a WeTHRIVE! School District helped the wellness team?
“WeTHRIVE! helps tremendously. Kim [Chelf – health educator] has been great. She’s been there to help me get things organized and together, to get the team to be effective. And she helps keep me on point…and helps calm my nerves!”
What is the wellness team’s biggest challenge?
“I think one of the barriers is, of course, finances. I don’t think there’s a line item for wellness. So whatever we do, we have to try to do it by either getting our own money together, or it has to be something that doesn’t cost anything. But we could probably do bigger and better things if we had a budget.”
What do you like most about working in Mt. Healthy Schools?
“Mt. Healthy is a great place to work! I feel like the things food service is doing, I can see how it’s helping the community I live in, and that’s what makes it so great. Doing the CEP option was a big thing for our district and I felt real proud of it…it let people know that we care about your kids here and we’re going to do everything we can for them while they are here with us. That’s what makes me come to work every day, knowing that I’m doing something for my community, the community that I live in.”
MTHCS Wellness Team Members:
Carolyn Adee (district nurse), Sue Bowling (librarian/food pantry co-chair), Rebecca Brooks (treasurer), Kim Chelf (Hamilton County Public Health), Arvie Crouch (dean of students, Mt. Healthy Jr/Sr High School), Sara Dadabo (music teacher, South Elementary), LaWanda Engleman (EMIS supervisor), Karen Green (assistant superintendent), Brad Johnson (dean of students, South Elementary), Sonya Johnson (lunchroom monitor), Mike Lindsey (dean of students, North Elementary), Kathy Lorenz(coordinator, Mt. Healthy Alliance Food Bank), Jamal Maxsam (assistant principal, North Elementary), Katie Milbower (physical education teacher, South Elementary), Karen O’Connell (state and federal programs coordinator/homeless liaison/food pantry co-chair), Erin Richardson (community member/district sub), Fredrika Richardson—chair (food service director), Andre Roldan (student services coordinator), Dr. Julie Turner (school board president), Mark Walden (truancy/foster liaison), Yvonne Watson (secretary, Mt. Healthy Jr/Sr High School), Rebecca Wietmarschen (assistant to the food service director)