Resources

Op-Eds

Why Op-Eds Matter

Writing and submitting an op-ed – an opinion article printed opposite to the editorial page of your local newspaper or magazine – is a great way to raise awareness of school wellness programs and recruit supporters. Through op-eds, you’ll be able to broadly explain why improving kids’ health and wellness in and out of schools is something Kansas should care about.

But making sure your voice is heard can be tricky, especially in the ever-changing world of media, so here are a few tips, as well as a sample op-ed, to get you started.

Op-Ed Tips and Tricks

  • Ask yourself: “Who cares?” Make sure your piece will clearly resonate with the public. Think about what the reader might want to hear as you write.
  • Keep things tight. News outlets have limited space, so keep your op-ed to no more than 500 words and check your local paper’s requirements before submitting.
  • Speak conversationally. Avoid jargon, fancy words and slang. Your op-ed must be understood by the general public, including people with no knowledge of school wellness programs or how they might touch their lives.
  • Get to the point. Make your key points early and often, and back them up with statistics and examples. You can find great facts right here!
  • Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, title, organization (as needed), email, and phone number in case the editors want to contact you.

Sample Op-Ed

As an education leader in Kansas, it’s important to me that kids grow up smart, strong and healthy. That’s why I’m pledging to work with the families of kids at my school to make sure we encourage healthy habits and lifelong wellness. Healthy kids should matter to everyone. After all, kids are the future.

Children spend a majority of their time at school. They eat at least one meal there, if not two. They are given snacks, participate in bake sales and enjoy birthday treats. They also exercise, whether at recess or on a sports team after school. Exposure to healthy habits while at school can have an enormous impact on lifelong achievement.

Quality nutrition and physical exercise are widely known to prevent sick days, obesity and other chronic diseases. But healthy eating and exercise also improve academic performance.

Studies show kids who eat breakfast are more likely to pay attention in class, comprehend lessons and score higher on tests. In fact, kids who eat breakfast every morning attend, on average, 1.5 more days of school every year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests than those who don’t start the day off with a healthy meal.1 Even moderate exercise, like walking, increases brain activity and can improve concentration and boost performance in the classroom.2

On the other hand, kids who don’t eat healthy, nutritious foods struggle to achieve in school. Poor nutrition is associated with lower grades, lower standardized test scores and increased likelihood of being held back a grade level in school – all of which can lead to additional problems down the road. Research shows that students who perform well in school are less likely to engage in acts of violence, be victims of violence or use tobacco and alcohol. At the same time, a lack of achievement in school can lead to future inactivity and poor diet choices.3

So where does the school-family collaboration fit into this? By working together to create school wellness programs that emphasize nutrition education, physical activity and general nutrition practices, we can expose Kansas kids to healthy food options and teach them how to make lifelong healthy choices.

We have the ability to create this change, but policies and programs take time and resources to implement – they can’t be created and enforced on a whim. We have to work hand-in-hand with Kansas parents, who are equally vested in the health of our children as we are.

To ensure our kids lead long and accomplished lives, we must come together as schools and communities to recognize the important link between health and education. Join me in taking the pledge at Team up for Kansas Kids to help establish healthier lives and futures for our children. Learn more at teamupforkansaskids.com.

 

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Facts About Kansas Kids