Healthier School Environments: New Grants to Help Reduce Tobacco Use, Increase Physical Activity and Improve Nutrition

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 24, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today announced the awarding of $2.5 million in grants to organizations to help schools develop policies that will create healthier environments for students and adults.

Policy efforts will focus on preventing and reducing tobacco use and increasing healthful eating and physical activity opportunities in schools.

"It is essential that children develop healthy habits while they are young," Commissioner Daines said. "Schools can supplement the healthy living behaviors students learn at home."

Although tobacco use is not allowed on the grounds of New York schools by adults or by students, in 2008 38 percent of middle- and high-school students reported seeing at least one adult smoking on school property in the past 30 days. Further, 64 percent of high-school students and 28 percent of middle-school students reported seeing at least one student smoking on school property in the past 30 days.

A 2008 audit by the Office of the State Comptroller found that only one of 20 school districts audited was in compliance with physical education regulations at all grade levels.

The grant awards will also support healthy eating policies. Recently mandated school wellness policies led many schools to improve food served at schools – yet more than two-thirds of all foods eaten by school-age children are low in nutrients but high in calories.

"It is vital that all school districts meet or exceed state physical education regulations, increase access to healthy food choices, decrease unhealthy options, and maintain tobacco-free environments so that our children and adolescents can enjoy a healthy school environment which has been shown to improve academic performance, improve self-esteem and lower stress, both today and as they grow into healthy adults," Dr. Daines said.

Recipients of the 19 grants awarded today are:

  • Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) - $127,000 (serving Niagara, Erie, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties)
  • Erie 1 BOCES - $127,000 (serving Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties)
  • Genesee Valley BOCES - $127,000 (serving Steuben, Schuyler, Livingston, Chemung and Yates counties)
  • Genesee Valley BOCES - $127,000 (serving Monroe, Wayne, Ontario and Seneca counties)
  • Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES - $127,000 (serving Tompkins, Tioga, Cortland, Broome, and Chenango counties)
  • Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES - $127,000 (serving Oswego, Cayuga, and Onondaga counties)
  • Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES - $127,000 (serving Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties)
  • St. Lawrence County Health Initiative - $127,000 (serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties)
  • Clinton County Health Department - $127,000 (serving Clinton, Franklin, Essex and Hamilton counties)
  • Glens Falls Hospital - $127,000 (serving Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Fulton and Montgomery Counties)
  • Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital - $127,000 (serving Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties)
  • Seton Health System Inc. - $127,000 (serving Columbia, Greene, Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties)
  • Ulster BOCES - $127,000 (serving Orange, Rockland, Ulster and Sullivan counties)
  • Western Suffolk BOCES - $153,000 (serving Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties)
  • Western Suffolk BOCES - $153,000 (serving Suffolk County)
  • Western Suffolk BOCES - $153,000 (serving Nassau County)
  • Institute for Family Health - $153,000 (serving Bronx County)
  • Fund for Public Health in New York - $153,000 (serving Kings County)
  • Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES - $125,000 (statewide).

In addition to being funded as a regional school policy contractor, Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES is receiving funds to plan, convene and lead a multi-year leadership institute that advances comprehensive school health policy work. The leadership institute will strengthen the process of policy, systems and environmental change statewide.