Healthy Students Initiative

The academic success of students is strongly linked to their health. Students who are more physically active and consume a balanced diet perform better in school, and it is easier for students to be more active and eat healthfully when their environment encourages it.

Schools play a key role in shaping how and what students eat and how and when they exercise. Over 33% of the students in the Healthy Students Initiative (HSI) schools are considered overweight. This means one in three students carry more body weight than is healthy.

The Healthy Students Initiative (HSI) began with the 2008-09 school year as a seven-year Healthy Shasta project to address childhood obesity in Shasta County school communities. The goal of the Healthy Students Initiative is to improve the health and academic success of students in three Shasta County schools and to develop a roadmap for other local schools.

The Healthy Students Initiative was funded by The McConnell Foundation, Shasta Family YMCA, and Shasta County Public Health (now Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency) in partnership with Bella Vista, Cypress, and Lassen View elementary schools. With direct funding of $4 million, the three schools and the Healthy Shasta partners are contributing substantial resources and time to find solutions to address childhood obesity within school communities.

The Healthy Students Initiative has four areas of focus:

  • Increase physical activity among students and families.
  • Increase access to healthier foods and beverages on schools campuses.
  • Empower students, staff, and families to speak up for healthy choices.
  • Make long-lasting changes to support healthy eating and physical activity.

Healthy Students Initiative Partners

Healthy Students Initiative Successes

The HSI has seen successes in physical activity, school meals, and school gardens. The HSI Schools have increased access to physical activity, and the physical education programs promote structured physical activity to increase students’ physical fitness and joy of being active.


The school gardens provide outdoor classrooms for hands-on learning. The gardens produce vegetables and fruit for use in the school meal programs. The students love to eat and share their harvest with the rest of the school. Much research has shown that garden experiences open students up to trying more produce.


Working with the school cafeteria is a key component to encouraging healthy eating among students. The HSI schools are committed to creating delicious, nutritious foods to help fuel students' education and physical activity. The HSI's school meal programs are working on:

  • Cooking more meals from scratch to control and improve nutritional quality
  • Using produce from school gardens in meals, especially on the daily salad bars
  • Increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Reducing fat, salt, sugar, and preservatives in menu items
  • Providing additional opportunities for school breakfast


For a list of strategies the HSI schools are implementing to improve the health of their schools, check out this one-page handout.

Shasta Taking Active Roles in School (STARS)

As a way to extend the HSI, the Shasta Taking Active Roles in School (STARS) Collaborative began in 2011 to provide training and grants to other Shasta County schools. During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, grants helped Shasta County public schools improve their school meal programs. Nearly $300,000 has been awarded for projects ranging from purchasing cooking equipment and salad bars to expanding breakfast programs to making aesthetic improvements to make the cafeteria experience more enjoyable. Additional information about the STARS Collaborative available in brochure.

STARS Collaborative Brochure (pdf)

Healthy Students Initiative News

Press Release, October 22, 2013

Nine local school districts were awarded funding to make enhancements to their school meals and/or cafeteria during the 2013-14 school year. The Healthy Students Initiative, as part of Healthy Shasta, has awarded $174,000 among the districts. Read more...

Smarter Lunchrooms Training a Big Success!

The Healthy Students Initiative (HSI) and the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program (SRCP) co-hosted a free training, presented by experts from Cornell University, for school food service directors and cooks. Attendees learned to:
  • encourage healthy eating without nagging
  • make low-cost changes to increase student fruit consumption
  • lay out the school cafeteria so students choose and eat more healthy foods

For those who were unable to attend, news stories and a video clip of the well-attended event are now available on KHSL TV and KRCR TV.

For more information about this training and/or the Healthy Students Initiative, please contact April at 245-6843. For more information about the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program, please contact Theresa at 229-8487.

Lassen View Cafeteria Manager in the News Again

Kathie Sardeson is featured in an Associated Press article about what school nutrition workers are doing to help kids eat healthy. Congratulations Kathie!

Cypress Elementary School Head Cook Honored

It's well known that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The students who get served hot meals at Cypress Elementary School in Redding have Head Cook Jackie Thurmond to thank for starting the day off right.

The program she helped develop has been so successful that Thurmond was recently recognized as one of California's Classified School Employees of the Year in the category of Child Nutrition.

With help from an HSI grant, Cypress School has undergone a transformation. Meals used to be prepared at another site and often included processed food. Now, with a full working kitchen and garden, students, and even some parents, fill their stomachs with many more entries cooked from scratch.

"Here, with our program, on Monday morning, you know that many students over the weekend haven't had many good meals and they come in and they're starving. It's so important for them to know they can come here and leave with full tummies, and they will have a better attention span in the classroom," Thurmond said.

Approximately 200 students take part in the program. For more information, please see video clip below.

Lassen View Elementary School's Cafeteria Manager Honored

Kathie Sardeson, the cafeteria manager at Lassen View Elementary School in Redding, was recently honored by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) with the "Heart of the Program Award" for her efforts to provide healthy school meals and encourage healthy eating habits.

According to SNA's press release, "Kathie Sardeson embodies the extraordinary commitment of school nutrition professionals to the students they serve. She eagerly took on new tasks when her school began offering free breakfast for all students and launched a new mid-morning, healthy snack cart for students. Kathie enjoys experimenting with new recipes that add nutrition, color and taste appeal to the menu. Kids love her "Fear Factor Smoothie" made with fruit, yogurt and leafy greens, and she even convinced students to try Kale Chips during a recent Harvest of the Month taste test."

Through the partnership with HSI, funds have been utilized for additional kitchen staff and new kitchen equipment to make scratch cooking easier, including a potato wedger that is used to make healthy, sweet potato fries. Kathie and her staff incorporate new "no salt" recipes and healthy scratch cooking from trainings such as Reducing Sodium in Schools, Whole Grains, and Healthy Cuisine for Kids offered by HSI.

For more information, please see full press release and video clips below.

SNA Press Release

Local news coverage:
KRCR Channel 7 Interview 1
KRCR Channel 7 Interview 2

Lassen View Elementary YouTube Video

View a snapshot of what Lassen View School is doing as part of HSI. From a new walking path to salad bars and scratch cooking, Lassen View School is a place where the physical and cultural environment encourages healthy choices for both students and staff.