Healthy Schools

Healthy kids learn better, and they also grow up to be healthier, happier, more productive adults. Upstream Public Health believes Oregon should work with our K-12 public schools to ensure Oregon’s youth have their best chance of success in school and in life.

Why It Matters

The present generation of school children is the first generation in American history to have shorter projected lifespans than their parents. Those projections are the result of diabetes and the other chronic diseases associated with diet and weight.    

What We’re Doing

Since we were founded, Upstream has always had a focus on youth health and nutrition.

In 2015, we worked on an effort to get junk food marketing out of Oregon schools.  The bill did not pass this legislative session, but we are excited to see more parents and community members expressing concern about this issue.  We believe that if a food doesn't meet the nutrtional standards of what can be sold at schools, it should not be marketed at schools. 

See our campaign fact sheet/cartoon here.   

Here are some of the many ways that corporations market to kids at schools: 

  1. Vending machine labeling  (vending machines at schools are allowed to sell water, juices, some energy drinks, and diet sodas, but not “regular” sodas.  However, the machines can still be plastered with advertising for the “regular” version of sodas (e.g. red regular Coke)
  2. Scoreboards and other school signage
  3. Benefit nights at restaurants
  4. Donated classroom materials, such as math or reading worksheets (younger grades)
  5. Book covers
  6. Pizza Hut “Bucks for Books” programs
  7. Box Tops for Education / Labels for Education
  8. Fundraiser sale items:  cookie dough, pizza, etc.
  9. Branded disposable cups in cafeterias or sports
  10. Special event signage (banners)
  11. Athletic uniforms or special event t-shirts
  12. Channel One TV
  13. “Good Job” stickers with corporate logos
  14. Food coupons as discretionary awards from staff

What You Can Do

To get involved, and to add your voice of support, please e-mail Kasandra,.  If you have kids in school, or if you work in school, please share an example or a story of marketing that you or your kid(s) experienced through their school.  

Our Successes So Far

In 2007, Upstream helped pass HB 2650, taking junk food out of Oregon school cafeterias and vending machines.  In 2014, similar standards were finally adopted nationally. 

Upstream has been working to promote and expand Farm to School programs in Oregon since 2006; see Food & Nutrition.

In the 2012 legislative session, we worked hard to defeat HB 4104, which would have reduced school district’s obligation to report on their compliance with certain physical education and nutrition requirements.

In 2012, Upstream and the Healthy Kids Learn Better coalition were very involved in education reform efforts. The Oregon Education Investment Board was given the challenge of integrating the education system from birth through college, and improving overall outcomes, and we took on the challenge of getting them to recognize the importance of health.

We are proud to report that we were successful in getting “chronic absenteeism” included as a measure of health in the new “achievement compacts” for K- 12 school districts. This now appears as one of the key measures that school districts track, along with test scores and graduation rates.  Oregon has one of the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the nation with 22%, nearly 1 in 4 children, in K-12 chronically absent each year.  Chronic Absenteeism is a predictor of dropping out; so it is not suprising that 1 in 3 Oregon high school students do not graduate. For more about the connection about chronic absenteeism and health, see our 2014 report: The Connection Between Missing School and Health:  A Review of Chronic Absenteeism and Student Health in Oregon. For additional information on this issue, please see Attendance Works and a local briefing paper about the issue in Oregon here.)

Upstream is now chairing the Healthy Kids Learn Better, a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working collectively to promote policies and programs that will reduce physical, social, and emotional barriers to learning. The goal of the coalition is to build supportive funding, leadership, and policies on the connections between health and education in order to keep kids safe, healthy, and ready to learn. Upstream helps guide the coalition as a member of the steering committee, along with representatives from some of our partner organizations:  American Heart AssociationBicycle Transportation AllianceOregon Medical Association, and Oregon School Based Health Care Network.