Youth Nutrition & Exercise

Dear community member,

In recent years the importance of health and wellness to students’ success in and out of the classroom has become increasingly clear.

In the fall, Santa Cruz County Pediatric Health Work Group and several community partners identified nutrition and exercise as areas of particular concern for youth. Reports from pediatricians and multiple indicators such as the Body Mass Index (BMI) are trending in the wrong direction since the pandemic. This data also reveals a stark equity gap: Watsonville youth have a BMI in a percentile 10% higher than their peers in other areas of Santa Cruz County. While these indicators cannot in isolation provide a holistic overview of the state of health among youth, it is a signal we must take seriously.

In response, the COE, Pediatric Health Work Group, and the Public Health Department of Santa Cruz County recently launched the Santa Cruz County Youth Nutrition and Exercise Initiative. This initiative is convening educators, families, and public health experts into work groups focused on four topical areas: Classroom instruction, movement, school nutrition services, and family engagement. So many exceptional programs are already in place, including the outstanding farm-to-table culinary programs at Pacific and Starlight elementary schools. Part of our goal is share these best practices and spotlight exemplary local programs to amplify what’s already working well.

Your voice is also needed. To better understand what’s working well, and where schools can do more, the family engagement work group has released a survey in English and Spanish.

Thank you to those who are able to complete or help us share this survey – as well as to our talent work group leads, members, and partners who are stepping up to help us support a healthy school community!

Yours in education and equity,
Dr. Faris Sabbah
County Superintendent of Schools