PHS News - Summer 2018

PHS hits 100 school milestone

This fall, Project Healthy Schools (PHS) hit a new milestone: 100 schools are actively participating in the PHS program. This includes 21 new schools implementing the PHS program for the first time this fall, plus 79 schools where PHS has become an ongoing part of the school culture. In nearly 90 percent of schools that have implemented PHS since 2004, the program continues year after year, creating a culture of health that benefits future generations of students and staff. This is unusual, as many school wellness programs end after a single year. Support from Michigan Medicine, the generosity of numerous donors and school fundraising efforts allow PHS to sustain the program in existing schools, while large grants and partnerships allow PHS to expand to more schools.

map with stars for each school

Twenty-one new schools, as indicated by the red stars, are
starting PHS this fall. (One school is in Tucson, Arizona.)

Of the 21 new schools starting the PHS program this fall, 17 are participating in the Building Healthy Communities: Project Healthy Schools partnership, of which six are also part of the Healthy Kids U.P partnership. Two schools are part of the Greater Flint Health Coalition partnership; one is part of a new partnership with the University of Arizona, and one, Ann Arbor STEAM, is supported by a donor gift.

Building Healthy Communities

This is the sixth year of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) partnership which is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human services and the University of Michigan. The new schools supported by the BHC partnership include:

  • Cesar Chavez Academy Middle School, Detroit
  • Creekside Intermediate School, Dexter
  • DeWitt Junior High School, DeWitt
  • Grass Lake Middle School, Grass Lake
  • Hamady Middle School, Flint
  • Hamilton Middle School, Hamilton
  • Hope of Detroit Academy, Detroit
  • International Academy of Flint, Flint
  • Southwest Detroit Community School, Detroit
  • Suttons Bay Middle School, Suttons Bay
  • Wakefield-Marenisco School, Wakefield

Healthy Kids U.P.

Healthy Kids U.P. is a partnership between local public health departments in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the University of Michigan and the Michigan State University Extension. This is the second year of the partnership. The new schools supported by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund include:

  • Aspen Ridge Middle School, Ishpeming
  • Forest Park School District, Crystal Falls
  • Gladstone Junior High School, Gladstone
  • Pickford Public Schools, Pickford
  • Superior Central School District, Eben Junction
  • Washington Middle School, Calumet

Greater Flint Health Coalition

The Greater Flint Health Coalition, which works to improve the health status of Genesee County residents, first became a PHS partner in 2012 when they offered Project Healthy Schools to two schools as part of their Commit to Fit! Program. Thanks to support from the Hurley Foundation, two more schools will receive the PHS program this year:

  • Armstrong Middle School, Flint
  • Mt. Morris Middle School, Mt. Morris

University of Arizona

For the first time, thanks to a partnership with the University of Arizona, PHS is being implemented in a state outside of Michigan. With support from Frank Marcus, M.D.; Cynthia Thomson, PhD, RDN,FTOS; and Iman Hakim, Dean of the University of Arizona's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; PHS is being implemented in Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Tucson, Arizona this fall. Health Educator Sr. Sabrina Plattner, M.Ed, from the University of Arizona is overseeing the implementation.

With the addition of these 21 new schools, nearly 75,000 students will have participated in PHS' health literacy curriculum to date, and this year alone, over 45,000 students will benefit from PHS school-wide wellness initiatives.

Mark your calendars for Giving Blueday

Giving Blueday logoProject Healthy Schools (PHS) is excited to partner with U-M for Giving Blueday, an annual day of giving that coincides with Giving Tuesday. This global day of giving occurs on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving weekend. Giving Blueday is a day for people to join together and combine their support to maximize their philanthropic impact. The fifth annual Giving Blueday will take place on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, from 12 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. EST.

PHS is now in 100 Michigan schools. That means this year over 11,000 mostly sixth grade students will increase physical activity, eat healthier, and understand how nutrition and activity influences their lifelong health and over 41,000 students and staff will benefit from PHS' school-wide wellness initiatives and a healthier school culture.

A gift on Giving Blueday will help PHS reach the next 100 schools, while continuing in the first 100 schools. Whatever you can give will help. It all adds up and supports PHS as we lead the way in reducing childhood obesity and improving the current and future health of Michigan youth!

Stay tuned to Giving Blueday. Visit to learn more.

Cafeteria offers healthy options based on student input

The wellness team at Portland Middle School wanted to incorporate more healthy options in the cafeteria. Portland hosted several tastings throughout the year, including an apple tasting, a salad tasting, and a green smoothie tasting. At each event, students were asked to vote on their favorite items so the most popular recipes could be incorporated into the cafeteria menu. In addition, a fitness class for seventh and eighth grade students held a recipe contest in the fall. Students made samples of healthy recipes for a sixth-grade classroom, whose students then voted on their favorite items. The most popular recipe was provided to food service and incorporated into the cafeteria's offerings. Signage about the new healthy options was added to the lunchroom to help promote those items. The wellness team also incorporated healthy foods and snacks during other events on campus, including the Turkey Trot and spring conferences. Over 90% of students participated in the taste tests. Forty students completed the recipe contest. Students who tried samples became more open to trying new foods as the year progressed. Their votes led to real changes in the cafeteria; more local produce was available for purchase, and fruit and vegetable sales increased this year.

students sampling green smoothies

On St. Patrick's Day, students at Portland Middle
School sampled green smoothies, which combined
vitamin-rich spinach with frozen

Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools is making a difference at Portland Middle School and many schools around the state. Find out how you can support Project Healthy Schools' work

PHS welcomes two new team members

Project Healthy Schools (PHS) is pleased to welcome two new wellness coordinators to the PHS team this fall. Wellness coordinators visit PHS schools to train school staff and assist the school wellness champions in implementing the PHS program. PHS is excited to add two well-qualified health education professionals to the PHS team.

Jenn AlexanderJenn Alexander joined the PHS team as a wellness coordinator in September 2018. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in education with a major in kinesiology and health promotion from Michigan State University. Jenn was a volunteer PHS Health Ambassador in the Ann Arbor schools in 2015. Prior to that, she worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Cigna Health Insurance as a health coach and a health educator, respectively. Most recently, Jenn was a trainer for Michigan Medicine's HITS Education and Training and is a credentialed EPIC Trainer.

Jacob RobidouJacob Robidou joined the PHS team in August of 2018. Jacob was born and raised in Gardiner, Montana at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Montana State University in K-12 health and physical education. Jacob previously spent 10 years as K-8 physical education/health teacher and athletic director in Bozeman, MT. He is excited to be a part of the Project Healthy Schools team as well as the University of Michigan. Jacob hopes to apply his experience teaching health and wellness in the classroom to his role as a PHS Wellness Coordinator.

Fruit and vegetable consumption variations among PHS students

By Rachel Krallman

The first of Project Healthy Schools' five main goals is to "eat more fruits and vegetables." A recent study sought to explore the fruit and vegetable consumption habits of PHS' middle-school students. Students were considered "high fruit and vegetable consumers" if they had at least three servings of either fruits or vegetables per day. "Low fruit and vegetable consumers" were students who had less than three servings per day. Low consumers were more likely to be African American, or from low socioeconomic status communities. Additionally, low consumers had worse recovery heart rates (an indicator of fitness) prior to the PHS intervention. The results of this study show an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and physiological measurements, suggesting that efforts should be made to target vulnerable communities to increase the accessibility of fruits and vegetables.

Median Heart Rate of High and Low F/V Consumers Graph

PHS students who ate fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables per day had
higher recovery heart rates prior to the PHS intervention than those who at three
or more servings for fruits and vegetables per day.

PHS Advisory Board witnesses PHS' Impact at Cody High School

On May 9, 2018 several members of the Project Healthy Schools Advisory Board visited Medicine and Community Health Academy (MCH) at Cody High School in Detroit to learn first-hand about the impact PHS is making at the school. The agenda for the day started with a presentation by ninth grader, Tatiana Mosley, who shared her experiences from a field trip to Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor for students in PHS’ Science of Wellness class. She was particularly impressed by the Survival Flight nurse who spoke with them. As a result, Tatiana said she wants to go to college and become a registered nurse and then complete the training to be a nurse that saves lives on a plane. Tatiana also talked about her participation in the Health Career Exploration Class where PHS arranged for U-M nursing students to teach skill building workshops.

Board members sampling vegetable stir-fry

PHS Advisory Board members Myra
Weiss, Janis Wetsman and Kathy
Goldberg sample a vegetable stir-fry
prepared by Cody High School students.

Next, MCH Principal Michelle Parker talked to the board about the progress being made at Cody High School and plans for the future. Then the board toured an unused physiology lab that has a fully equipped fitness center. With support from PHS, Parker hopes to turn the space into a fitness center for students and staff. Research shows that physical activity has a positive impact on learning

The next stop was a cooking class where students learn about healthy meal preparation. The three-week long class was made possible by PHS' partnership with the Detroit Food Academy. Board members observed the last few minutes of the class and sampled a vegetable stir-fry prepared by the students and served with rice.

A greenhouse, complete with a self-sustaining aquaponics system, was the final stop on the tour. Salad greens grown in the aquaponics bed are used to teach the PHS salad lesson at nearby Dixon Educational Learning Academy. Volunteers from the Cody Wellness Team tend to the plants in the greenhouse under the guidance of Noah Link, an urban farmer recruited by PHS to renovate the greenhouse. One of the wellness team members, Jujaun Berns, said he didn't know much about gardening when he started. Now he helps pot plans and grow flowers in pots. He pointed to some edible flowers and said that even students who are not on the wellness team come to help in the green house and ask questions.

In the debrief following the tour, board members expressed how impressed they were with the work PHS is doing at Cody. Board member Myra Weiss enthusiastically said "We should come to Cody every year so we can see the progress they're making." Another board member, Janis Wetsman said, "You can talk about it, but you really don't realize the impact until you see it." The Wetsman Foundation sponsors PHS' work at Cody High School.

Students vote for their favorite apple in apple tasting events

What's your favorite apple? Students can explore the answer to that question in Project Healthy Schools apple tasting events. This year, 19 schools will hold school-wide apple tasting events thanks to a partnership with the Michigan Apple Committee, which provides the apples each year. That means over 9,200 students will get to experience the difference in flavor between three varieties of apples and vote for the one they like best.

2 kids tasting apples

Brielle Clark and Ava Mallar, students
at Pittsford Area School, participate
in an apple tasting event.

The events not only let students discover their preference in apples and encourage them to eat more fruit, but also, for some students, it may be the first time they've ever eaten an apple. For example, one student at an apple tasting in Flint said, "This is good! How do you make them?" She was surprised to learn that apples grow on trees.

Apple tastings are one of the most popular wellness initiatives offered to schools by PHS each year. PHS works with the Michigan Apple Committee, a connection made possible through the Building Healthy Communities partnership, to make sure there are enough apples available to hold tastings at the new schools and at returning schools that haven't held a previous apple tasting.

Did you know?

  • The fall PHS Wellness Champion Gathering is scheduled for November 12th in Ann Arbor.
  • Weight Watchers just lowered the discounted price for employees at PHS schools to $98 for three months. The discount is only available at schools in the WW Group, Inc. franchise areas.
  • LaVaughn Palma-Davis, PHS co-founder and senior director of U-M Health and Well-Being Services is retiring in December.
  • In January, PHS will add two more schools in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The two schools that started PHS last year are continuing, so PHS will have four schools in Bangladesh this school year.