Healthy Start


Evangeline Parish School Board Tackles COVID-19 Challenges with Teamwork 

While school communities throughout Louisiana have felt the impact of COVID-19, Louisiana Healthy Schools is committed to reducing the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to support physical activity, nutrition, social emotional health and the management of students’ chronic health conditions. With support from Louisiana Healthy Schools and partners, school systems across the state are also rising to the challenges of the 2020-2021 school year to ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Evangeline Parish School Board exemplifies what it means to be a Louisiana Healthy School. This rural school system, located in the middle of the state, leads 12 schools serving 5,755 students. Of those students, approximately 74% of students are economically disadvantaged.

During the summer of 2020, the school system knew this year would bring a unique set of challenges. As they began planning, their primary goal was to “ensure a safe, healthy environment for all students and staff members and at the same time maintaining the academic focus.” This was their number one priority.

Kelli Lafleur, Director of Special Education, has worked for the school system for 19 years. Currently, she oversees student well-being, school nursing, supporting positive behavior, and ensures students receive specialized supports as needed. Kelli shared that leadership support and innovation have been critical to a successful start to the school year.

Like many school systems, Evangeline Parish School Board faced key challenges and questions that needed to be addressed. The school system identified four key topic areas critical to a successful year: 1) effective distance learning, 2) staff and student education on safety practices, 3) the continuation of well-being activities for students and staff members, and 4) mitigating the spread of COVID-19.  Throughout the fall months, Evangeline Parish School Board tackled these challenges while remembering to prioritize a safe and healthy school environment for students and staff.

Evangeline Parish School Board took the following actions to address their key areas of concern.

  • Establishing a COVID-19 taskforce for the school system. The group meets daily at 3:00 pm to review relevant data and address concerns.
  • Ensuring every school has a school nurse on campus. Evangeline Parish School Board authorized and allocated funding needed to hire two additional nurses to ensure every school has a nurse on school grounds. The nurses come together each week to discuss strategies for overcoming barriers.
  • Creating a Well-Being Leadership Team at each school. Funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is being used to support a coordinator whose role is to support the development and coordination of well-being teams at each school. The teams are in place to support screening of students and to ensure students’ needs are addressed.
  • Promoting staff training and education. The superintendent encouraged all staff to complete the Louisiana Heathy Schools’ COVID-19 Mitigating Strategies training course developed by Children’s Hospital New Orleans.
  • Piloting the BinaxNOW Rapid Testing Kits. Evangeline Parish School Board is working in collaboration with local healthcare provider, Dr. Charles Aswell, to utilize the rapid testing kits provided through the Louisiana Department of Health.    
  • Providing nutritious meals to students. The school system’s Child Nutrition Department continues to ensure students receive healthy meals. This includes providing box meal kits available for pick up.


The Evangeline Parish School Board understands that this work cannot happen in a silo, and teamwork is critical for success. Kelli Lafleur shared that “she has seen more collaboration, teamwork, and innovation” during this school year than in years past. The school system has utilized resources from the Louisiana Department of Education Strong Start and Children’s Hospital New Orleans. In addition, the Evangeline Parish School Board has established a strong relationship with the Louisiana Department of Health’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Tina Stefanski. 

As school systems prepare for the return of students after the holidays, Louisiana Healthy Schools knows that new challenges will arise. Still, it is critical to take a holistic approach when addressing the concerns of COVID-19 to ensure that each child is healthy, knowledgeable, motivated, and engaged, and has a solid foundation for long-term success. Evangeline Parish School Board exemplifies this approach through teachers, schools, families, communities, and governments working together to place the child at the center.

Strategies to Support the Whole Child While Reopening

Learn more about how your school system can support the whole child. Visit for a curated set of resources, training opportunities, and technical assistance to support the whole child during COVID-19. This includes free virtual self-paced training for schools through Moodle. Click here to register for the trainings on Moodle!

Oldies but goodies

Well-Ahead Louisiana Partners with Aetna and Louisiana Department of Education to Host Healthy Schools Collaborative Meeting

In November, Well-Ahead Louisiana, in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education and Aetna, hosted the Healthy Schools Collaborative meeting in New Orleans.

With support from the Louisiana Department of Education, Well-Ahead coordinates the Louisiana Healthy Schools Collaborative, a network of statewide partners working to support healthy schools. At the November meeting, there was a panel discussion with Dr. Amanda Staiano (Pennington Biomedical Research Center), Renee Grady (Girls on the Run New Orleans), Stewart Young (Laureus Foundation), Superintendent Kevin George, (St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools) and Superintendent Wes Watts (West Baton Rouge Parish School Board). The panel discussed opportunities in support of Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child. During the panel discussion, Superintendent Wes Watts shared that the overarching factor of success is the culture that you create. A culture of love, support, caring, and understanding can help transform lives both academically and physically. In addition, panelist emphasized the need for local leaders to spur change. 

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in the three breakout sessions that was led by the Louisiana Department of Education and Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The sessions focused on building school health councils, completing the School Health Index, and engaging the community. All the resources for the breakout sessions can be found here.


  • Research shows a strong connection between healthy behaviors and academic achievement (e.g., grades, standardized tests, graduation rates, attendance).

  • Healthy students are better learners, and academic achievement bears a lifetime of benefits for health. 

  • However, youth risk behaviors, such as physical inactivityunhealthy dietary behaviorstobacco usealcohol use, and school safety use are consistently linked to poor grades, test scores, and lower educational attainment.


We all have a role in improving the health of our residents. Louisiana isn’t for spectators, it’s for participators. 

Our state is full of teachers, healthcare providers, mayors, parents, business leaders, and restaurant owners that can make a difference. 

So, we are encouraging you to be a leader in school health! Connect with your local school health council. The school health council should represent the diversity of your community and include people that have a passion for children's health, have an influence in the school and community, and have time to commit to supporting the committee's goals.  If your school does not have a local council, follow these three steps for forming a school health council.

Together, we can move Louisiana’s health forward.  And our students will live longer, happier, and healthier.    

Louisiana Receives Federal Grant to Improve Student Health

Louisiana has been selected to receive a federal grant to improve student health and academic achievement through nutrition, physical activity and the management of students’ chronic health conditions. The grant, which is valued at $350,000 a year for five years, will benefit student health initiatives.

“We are thrilled Louisiana has been selected as a recipient of this federal grant,” said State Superintendent John White. “The funding will help our schools increase the number of students who consume nutritious food and beverages, who participate in daily physical education and activity, and who can effectively manage their chronic health conditions.” This is including, but not limited to, poor oral health, asthma, food allergies, and diabetes.

Well-Ahead and the Department of Education will partner with public elementary, middle and high schools systems in Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, St. Landry and Tangipahoa parishes, as well as the City of Monroe to administer this grant. These school systems were selected based on need following a statewide evaluation of school environments and parish-wide health data.  Each school system will be awarded between $8,000 and $10,000 for health initiatives per year of the five-year grant.

“Schools play a critical role in helping students establish lifelong healthy behaviors,” said Director of Well-Ahead Louisiana, Melissa Martin. “We are excited to continue our partnership with the Department of Education to ensure all students have the opportunity to be healthy and successful!”  

This grant will support approximately 278 schools and 146,461 students in healthy eating, physical activity, and effective management of chronic health conditions can help improve academic achievement.


  • Louisiana ranks 19th in the nation for obesity among adolescents 10-17 years old and 34th for obesity among children 2-4 years old

  • According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 4 out of 5 Louisiana high school students fail to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day.


Are you interested in supporting a healthier school environment? Email to learn how you can implement policies, processes, and practices to improve student health and wellness and support the whole child.

Fifteen Schools Will Be Awarded $5,000 To Support A Healthier Environment

Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Education have teamed up to support healthier schools with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Team Nutrition Training Grant. This three-year grant will allow Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Education to support school environments that are conducive to healthy eating and physical activity by providing resources, funding and professional development to schools.  Awardees will be announced soon!  

Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Education are currently offering regional Smarter Lunchrooms trainings for all Louisiana school food service professionals, as well as a culinary skills training series focused on enhancing food preparation skills and knowledge of school food service professionals. To register for the upcoming trainings, visit

Did You Know?

Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents ages 2–18 year, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk (CDC, 2017). 

Apply Today!

All schools (K-12) are encouraged to apply for the Team Nutrition grant by January 31, 2018. To be considered for the grant, schools must be participating in the United States Department of Agriculture National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. To learn more about the grant guidelines, click here.  Today is the deadline to apply! Click here to download the application (Word).

New PE Standards Spark Support from the Healthy Schools Training Krewe

Physical education (PE) is the foundation of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program and is intended to provide students with the ability and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime. In April, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released the new physical education (PE) standards. These standards were developed by a group of practitioners and stakeholders with expertise in physical education and are unique to Louisiana.

With new standards in place, there is a need to support PE teachers in implementing quality physical education in schools. In August, Well-Ahead Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), the Louisiana Association of Health, Physical Activity, Recreation, and Dance (LAPHERD), and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation joined forces to coordinate trainings for PE teachers across the state. Together with the Healthy Schools Training Krewe, these partners have led trainings in nine parishes across the state. A total of 753 PE teachers have attended the interactive trainings and received guidance and resources for implementing quality physical education. These trainings can potentially positively impact approximately 213,171 students in Louisiana!

With these trainings, and the resources developed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, Louisiana is poised to further advance professional practice related to physical education.

Did You Know?

  • Professional development for physical education teachers is critical for the implementation of quality physical education.
  • Students that attend PE are approximately 2-3 times more likely to be active outside of school and almost twice as likely to continue to be active in adulthood.

Moving Louisiana’s Health Forward

Physical education is a key component of healthy schools. The Healthy Schools Training Krewe is a group of expert trainers from different organizations that have joined forces to support healthier schools. At no cost, the Krewe provides on-site professional development to those working to create healthier schools. Take action today! Request a training by emailing Emily Pineda at

Well-Ahead and The Louisiana Department of Education Award Fifteen Schools Mini-Grants

Fifteen schools across Louisiana have been awarded $5,000 each to support healthier schools and create school environments that are conducive healthy eating. A total of 47 schools applied for the Louisiana Team Nutrition mini-grant. Congratulations to the following schools!

  • Bains Elementary, West Feliciana Parish
  • Bains Lower Elementary, West Feliciana Parish
  • Bayou Chicot Elementary, Evangeline Parish
  • Evangeline Elementary, Lafayette Parish
  • Iota Elementary, Acadia Parish
  • KIPP Believe Primary, Orleans Parish
  • Mary D. Coghill Charter, Orleans Parish
  • Northside High, Lafayette Parish
  • Opelousas High, St. Landry Parish
  • Raintree Elementary, St. Mary Parish
  • ReNew Schaumburg Elementary, Orleans Parish
  • Rosenwald Elementary, Pointe Coupee Parish
  • Stephensville Elementary, St. Martin Parish
  • Valverda Elementary, Iberville Parish
  • W. Smith Jr. Elementary, St. Bernard Parish

In addition to these mini-grants, Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Education are offering regional Smarter Lunchrooms trainings for all Louisiana school food service professionals, as well as a culinary skills training series focused on enhancing food preparation skills and knowledge of school food service professionals. To register for the upcoming trainings, click here.  

Did You Know?

  • Research shows that students who participate in the school meal programs consume more milk, fruits, and vegetables during meal than nonparticipants. 
  • Eating breakfast at school is associated with better attendance rates, fewer missed school days, and better test scores. 
  • Meals served at school must meet specific nutrition requirements. 


Are you interested in supporting a healthier school nutrition environment? There are many ways you can help! Offer to participate in taste tests or other nutrition promotion activities in a school's cafeteria. Join a school or school district wellness committee! These committees often determine health and wellness policies for the school or district.  Be sure language about school meal programs is included.  Thank a school nutrition staff for preparing healthy meals for students. Work with parents and school staff to provide special recognition for the school nutrition staff for serving healthy meals. Review school menus with your child and encourage them to try new menu items. Email to learn about an opportunity near you!