Live Well Alabama
Debbie Beverly worked to build an active school wellness committee at Conecuh County Junior High School as part of the SNAP-Ed intervention, Quest for Healthy Schools.
When Beverly, in her role as the Conecuh and Covington County SNAP-Ed educator, connected with then-principal Kenneth Kirkland about establishing a wellness committee, he led her in the direction of a teacher who would be a champion for her cause. After getting Gregory Turner in her corner, Kirkland also turned Beverly onto many other school staff members who have contributed to the community.
A school wellness committee is typically made up of six to 12 individuals who have a vested interest in seeing a positive outcome from the school and its students. The wellness committee’s goal is to bring together those stakeholders who know the school’s personal needs.
However, the wellness committee isn’t limited to within the school’s walls. Those in the community that surrounds the school are also encouraged to join. Beverly used her connection with Castleberry Mayor Henry Kirksey to get him involved with the wellness committee. Kirksey was a former teacher of Beverly’s and had shown an interest in getting more involved with the school system. Beverly told him of the committee and told him there was a place for him if he wanted it. When he can’t make a committee meeting, he has been engaged with Beverly to receive frequent updates.
A tangible result of the wellness committee for the 2019-2020 school year, was the implementation of Brain Breaks in the classroom for students.
The term “brain breaks” describes brief physical activity breaks to help students move more during the day. The idea is to give students a chance to release energy and refocus with the added bonus of getting some physical activity during a time they would otherwise be seated for an extended period. After a workshop given by Beverly, the teachers implemented Brain Breaks into their classrooms periodically throughout their day.
After a few discussions with the committee, Beverly started to see motivational messages throughout the schools encouraging students to eat better, move more, and drink more water. She has found that to be a positive sign as the wellness committee in Conecuh County continues to meet to improve its students’ lives.
“Above all, I feel like everything that I’ve done before COVID-19, this was the one project that I was most proud of,” Beverly said.
In her role as a SNAP-Ed educator, Beverly stayed in touch with county teachers even after the schools were closed because of COVID-19 to ensure the Body Quest program was delivered to students she had promised. Body Quest is an innovative childhood obesity prevention initiative that empowers third graders and their parents to make healthy choices.
Through text messaging, Beverly communicated with teachers to determine how they were getting assignments to students at home. When she learned teachers were sending paper packets to students, she asked if she could send Body Quest lessons as part of their take-home bundle.
“It wasn’t the same as them having the in-person lesson, but it was better than not having anything,” Beverly said.
Those students who had access to Apple devices at home also received a link to download the free Body Quest: Food of the Warrior app, giving them access to six nutrition education games they could do from home.
When the schools closed due to COVID-19, Beverly found her role as an educator expanding. She became a source of information to families about where and when food was available. While many schools provided lunches for students during the pandemic, Beverly learned the role of getting the word out about food opportunities in the community fell not only to schools but also to SNAP-Ed educators.
“It just made me want to try harder to get the word out to everybody,” Beverly said. “I knew people needed to know when and where to get the food they needed.”
To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.