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Advancing Health, Wellness and Education in Rogue Valley

Improving student performance and advancing a culture of health and wellness were the primary themes discussed at the Learning Connection Summit at Central Point Elementary School on October 26.

Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council staff took a lead role in bringing together a broad spectrum of community leaders from the private and public sectors to come together and strengthen local networks, stimulate action and support the link between health and education. Discussions included school and worksite wellness, community nutrition, physical activity and school nutrition innovations.

“Advancing a culture of wellness in the Rogue Valley will help improve student achievement and contribute to the vitality and health of our region,” said Cheryl Kirk, Nutrition Instructor for Family and Community Health/SNAP-Ed, Oregon State University Extension. “This will help get our community thinking about what we can all do as individuals and collectively to make a positive difference.”

Summit participants came from both Jackson and Josephine counties and included elected officials, superintendents, school nutrition directors, county staff, health system administrators, business leaders and local farmers. All committed to advance school and community wellness with time and resources over the next year and beyond.

This effort was originally prompted by registered dietitian nutritionists from the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. Two years ago, the Council organized a similar gathering in Tillamook. This led to the Tillamook County Commission declaring a “Year of Wellness,” yielding positive changes in individuals, businesses, schools and organizations. Following on that success, Umatilla followed suit with a summit of their own.

In addition to the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, the Rogue Valley Learning Connection Summit was supported by Central Point School District, Oregon State University Extension, AllCare Health, Rogue Creamery, and Oregon Department of Education, Child Nutrition Programs.

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Umatilla Learning Connection Town Hall Reaps Positive Results

Families gathered at a local elementary school in Umatilla last month to learn how to cook healthy recipes that they could make together at home. It was a free class offered by Umatilla School District, Umatilla-Morrow Head Start and Oregon State University Extension Service; and it was precisely the kind of community collaboration that the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council had in mind when it organized the Umatilla Learning Connection Town Hall.

At the town hall meeting last October, local community leaders from education, school nutrition, extension, public health, health care and agriculture joined together to discuss how nutrition, physical activity, health and education impact student success. Together, the participants are strengthening local networks in Umatilla and Morrow counties and engaging a broad range of stakeholders in supporting the proven link between child health and wellness and education.

“The support for our students from teachers, child nutrition, after school and community programs has a clear and direct impact on their success,” said Heidi Sipe, Superintendent, Umatilla School District.

The town hall highlighted best practices in nutrition and physical activity and put the spotlight on Umatilla School District for their outstanding commitment to child health and success with innovative approaches to ensuring all kids are nourished for learning. Participants walked the new fitness trail at Umatilla High School, which was partially funded by the Fuel Up to Play 60 program and built by committed community members.

Town hall participants were asked to commit to school and community wellness with time and resources in the next school year and beyond. They each identified 90-day goals to keep the connections active and further their shared goal of advancing community health.  Participants will reconvene in one year to share their successes and continue their commitment.

“We need to do everything we can to stay connected and ensure the success of our students, families and community,” said Kevin Campbell, CEO, Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization.

In addition to the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, the Umatilla Learning Connection Town Hall was supported by: Umatilla School District, Umatilla County, OSU Extension SNAP-Ed, Intermountain ESD, Good Shepherd Health Care System, Umatilla-Morrow Head Start, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Child Nutrition Program and ODE Office of Teaching and Learning.