AIM Resources

You will find below Best Practices for physical activity and healthy eating in schools. Access to resources for a healthier lifestyle should be easily available to all communities. The AIM Do-It-Yourself Guide below is a implementation guide to help you achieve these Best Practices.

Healthy Eating Best Practices

  • All Meals
    • Serve fruits and vegetables in slices, sticks, or other simple shapes
    • Offer healthy beverages, such as 100% fruit juice, and low-fat or non-fat milk
    • Don’t offer dessert
    • Use school gardens as a complement to nutrition education
    • Use a variety of strategies to reduce sugar, fat, and calories in meals
      • Use ground beef that is 90% or more lean
      • Offer meatless entrée
      • Offer low-fat or non-fat options for sauces, dressings or dips
      • Limit portion size of sauces, dressings or dips to one-ounce servings
      • Use low fat or non fat real cheese
      • Use vegetable oil instead of shortening, butter, or margarine
      • Use low-fat or nonfat yogurt, reduced fat mayonnaise, or sour cream instead of regular yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream, or creamy salad dressing
      • Reduce the amount of sugar called for in recipes

    Breakfast

    • Offer fruit at breakfast every day
    • Offer vegetables at breakfast every day
    • Don’t offer items with high sugar content at breakfast (e.g. high sugar breakfast cereals, danishes, donuts)
    • Serve foods made from whole grains at breakfast

    Lunch

    • Provide 2 or more vegetable options at lunch every day
    • Provide 2 or more fruit options at lunch every day
    • Provide 1 or more servings of whole grains at lunch every day

    A La Carte

    • Don’t offer a la carte items
    • Healthy items are priced lower than most unhealthy items in a la carte
    • A la carte contains only healthy items

    Meal Scheduling

    • Schedule breakfast to occur in the classroom after school starts
    • Schedule at least 10 minutes for eating breakfast
    • Schedule at least 20 minutes for eating lunch after being seated
    • Schedule recess to occur before lunch

    Cafeteria Practices

    • Use “offer” system rather than “serve” system
    • Use a self-service bar, such as a salad bar, for fruits and/or vegetables
    • Participate in Farm to School programs
    • Participate in USDA Fruit and Vegetable Programs (Department of Defense Fruit and Vegetable Program; USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs)
    • Place fruits and vegetables in the front of the hot lunch line (not including the salad bar or a la carte)

School Policies and Practices

Note: For a school policy to be effective, it should be written and regularly enforced. Items below may be yellow or red if the policy does not satisfy these criteria (e.g. unwritten policies, or policies that are not enforced)

  • Have a policy that students are not allowed to bring unhealthy food items to school for snacks (e.g. items high in sugar, fat or sodium)
  • Have a policy that students are not allowed to bring unhealthy food items to school for lunch (e.g. items high in sugar, fat or sodium)
  • Have a policy that class parties offer healthy food
  • Have a policy that prohibits the use of unhealthy food or food coupons as a reward
  • Have a policy that prohibits the use of unhealthy foods for fundraising activities
  • Have a policy that only healthy foods are offered at school sporting events
  • Have a policy that only healthy foods are offered at non-sport school-sponsored events
  • Provide access to safe, free, well-maintained drinking water fountains or dispensers throughout the school day

Vending Machines

  • Don’t have a vending machine
  • Vending machines contain only healthy items (e.g. low fat, low sugar, small portion sizes)
  • Healthy items are priced lower than unhealthy items in vending machine

School Store or Snack Bar

  • Don’t have a school store and/or snack bar
  • School store contains only healthy items (e.g. low fat, low sugar, small portion sizes)
  • Healthy items are priced lower than most unhealthy items in the school store

Physical Activity Best Practices

  • Require a minimum of 150 minutes of P.E. each week (applies to both 4 and 5 day school-week) (strategies for increasing PE are to add new or lengthen existing PE periods)
  • Require the PE program to use an evidence-based curriculum, such as SPARK or CATCH, in order to encourage high levels of physical activity and student enjoyment of PE
  • Have adequate equipment for P.E. (1-to-1 student-to-equipment ratio for various items)
  • Have adequate indoor facilities for P.E. (a safe space, large enough for students, with various structures for activities)
  • Have adequate outdoor facilities for P.E. (a safe space, large enough for students, with various structures for activities)
  • Have a policy that classroom teachers cannot withhold students from PE (e.g. as punishment for classroom behavior, not completing assignments)
  • Have a policy that prohibits replacement of PE class with other activities
  • Have a policy that students cannot be withheld from recess (e.g. as punishment for classroom behavior, not completing assignments)
  • Require that students go outside for recess in appropriate weather
  • Provide at least 20 minutes of recess every day
  • Provide the option for organized activities during recess
  • Provide high levels of supervision during recess (e.g. active patrolling, reinforcing positive student behavior, reprimanding inappropriate behavior, ensuring inclusion of all students)
  • Provide a variety of game equipment for students to use at recess (e.g., kick balls, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, tennis balls, rackets, jump ropes, bean bags, frisbees, whiffle ball bats and balls, cones, movable bases, scarves, or flags)
  • Make a variety of facilities available at recess (e.g., climbing or play structures, swings, monkey bars, slides, basketball hoops, volleyball nets, baseball diamond, tether ball, open grassy area, walking or running track)
  • Playground has clearly painted lines for Four Square, Hopscotch, and Basketball
  • Provide classroom activity breaks throughout the day (e.g., Just-a-Minute, Take 10!, ABC For Fitness)
  • Provide competitive interscholastic sports (e.g., soccer, basketball)
  • Provide before or after school intramural programs that offer students a choice of physical activities regardless of ability (e.g. walking, yoga, running, Zumba, or sports)
  • Have a policy that students cannot be punished with physical activity (e.g. running laps, doing pushups)
  • Provide standing desks in the classroom for students
  • Provide safe routes to school including safe to use sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes, as well as storage areas for bikes, helmets, skateboards, etc.

Selected Publications

  • Belansky, E.S., Cutforth, N., Chavez, R.A., Waters, E., Horch, K. (2011). An adapted version of intervention mapping (AIM) is a tool for conducting community-based participatory research. Health Promotion Practice, 12, 440-455.
  • Belansky, E.S., Cutforth, N. (2012). Adapted Intervention Mapping: A Unique Approach to Planning and Implementing Policy and Environmental Change.  The Digest (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietetic Practice Group: Public Health/Community Nutrition), 6-11.
  • Farewell, C., Puma, J., Powers, J., & Belansky, E.S. (2017). Assess. Identify. Make it Happen. (AIM) for Preschools: A Tool to Decrease Early Childhood Obesity. Health Promotion Practice.
  • Ingman, B. C. (2016). The student experience of community-based research: An autoethnography. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 20(3), 62-89.
  • Ingman, B. C., Lohmiller, K., Cutforth, N., Borley, L., & Belansky, E. S. (2017). Community-engaged curriculum development: Working with middle school students, teachers, principals, and stakeholders for healthier schools. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 19(1), 9-34.
  • Allen, S. & Johnson, C. (Fall 2011).  Where is the community?  New York City Charter Schools and the Power Elite.  Theory, Research and Action in Urban Education. V. 1, No. 1.

Selected Presentations

  • Allen, S., Loecke, C., Ingman, B., Cutforth, N., Belansky, E. (October, 2017). The University’s Role in Bridging Grant Writing Capacity Divides in Rural Low-Income school Districts. Poster presented to the annual meeting of the American School Health Association in St. Louis, MO.
  • Allen S. N., Loecke, C., Paulson, M., & Ingman, B. C. (Oct. 6, 2018). Engaging students, families, and the community in a school district health and wellness planning process. Oral presentation at the American School Health Association National Conference. Indianapolis, IN.
  • Allen, S. N., Ingman, B. C., Schroder, K., & Carrica, J. (Oct. 11-13, 2018). Strategies to Engage Communities in District Health and Wellness Initiatives. Session presented at National Forum to Advance Rural Education. Denver, CO.
  • Belansky, E.S., Cutforth, N., & Chavez, R. (May, 2009). Adapted Intervention Mapping is a Tool for Conducting Community-Based Participatory Research. Poster presented at the 2nd Annual Improving Health WITH Communities: The Role of Community Engagement in Clinical and Translational Research Conference, Washington, DC.
  • Belansky, E.S., Cutforth, N., & Lospinoso, A. (June, 2018) Health and Wellness Planning:  What Works?  Conference session presented at the Healthy Schools Leadership Retreat, Keystone, CO.
  • Belansky, E.S., Cutforth, N., Johnson, N., Montoya, M., Rendon, A., Riley, K., & Woodworth, C. (August, 2018).  Creating Collaborative Solutions to Improve Behavioral Health in Rural Schools. Conference session presented at the Colorado Health Symposium, Keystone, CO.
  • Belansky, E. S., Cutforth, N., Lospinoso, A., Allen, S. N., & Ingman, B. C. (Oct. 6, 2018). Characteristics of high quality school health and wellness planning. Oral presentation at the American School Health Association National Conference. Indianapolis, IN.
  • George, M. W., Carson, R., Kuhn, A., Ingman, B. C., Graham, D., Belansky, E., Coatsworth, J. D., Cutforth, N., Kutchman, E., & Riggs, N. R. (Oct. 19-20, 2017). Developing and disseminating best practices in comprehensive health and wellness in schools. Conference session presentation at Advancing School Mental Health Annual Conference. Washington, DC.
  • George, M. W., Toll, R., Riggs, N. R., Coatsworth, J. D., Graham, D., Carson, R., Ingman, B. C., Belansky, E. S., Cutforth, N., & Kutchman, E. (Oct. 19-20, 2017). Innovation in Comprehensive Health and Wellness in Schools. Conference session presented at the Mental Health and Education Integration Consortium, Fall Meeting. Washington, DC.
  • Ingman, B. C., Cutforth, N., Belansky E. S., & Gardner, L. (Oct. 11-13, 2018). Steering Committees: Keys to Success in Rural Community-University Partnerships. Session presented at National Forum to Advance Rural Education. Denver, CO.
  • Loecke, C., Ingman, B. C., Allen, S. N., & Belansky, E. S. (Oct. 6, 2018). AIM-XL: A planning process to help schools take a WSCC approach. Oral presentation at the American School Health Association National Conference. Indianapolis, IN.
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