August 13, 2022

Oceanside Unified School District’s Updated Wellness Plan Impacts School Culture and Provides Water Security to 16,000 Students

Myeshia Whigham, Coordinator, Student Services, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Oceanside Unified School District

When it was time to update the Oceanside Unified School District’s Wellness Policy, the team knew they wanted to build on the current policy, which had served as a model and example for others since 2010.

They also wanted to ensure the new policy was reflective of their vision and goals for health, wellness, physical activity, and access to water. They wanted to establish a policy that would positively impact everyone in Oceanside – staff, students, and their families – and that making the healthy choice the easy choice was going to be a key component.

The school district worked with organizations across the region on their policy, including the County of San Diego and the American Heart Association.

Their first objective was to remove barriers to water access, making water accessible for everyone. They removed sugar sweetened beverages from the vending machines and added refillable water stations. The district also collaborated with community partners who provided re-fillable water bottles. The Parent Teacher Association also stepped up to fund water stations in a few locations that did not have them yet

It was a true community effort.

The updated Oceanside Unified School District Wellness Policy, which went into effect last August, ensures no-cost, clean drinking water is accessible to the over 16,000 students in the district during and beyond the school day. They also made sure that access to the water sources was age appropriate, that cups for water are available in cafeteria settings, and approved water bottles are allowed for staff and students. Additionally, the policy now ensures that the district plans for and installs water filling stations in new builds and major renovation projects.

The district is already seeing the impact of their policy updates in a change to their school culture.

“When I was in high school, you would see teachers and students walking in the hallways with a soda,” shared Myeshia Whigham, Coordinator, Student Services, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Oceanside Unified School District. “Now, when I am on campus, I see staff and students walking around with their re-fillable water bottles. Even our athletes are drinking more water than Gatorade-type drinks.”

Whigham added that she has seen the impact even at home.

“My daughter used to ask for sugary drinks, now she’s focused on making sure her favorite water bottle is in her backpack every morning before she leaves for school,” Whigham said. “I love that. These are the type of behaviors we want to see in our district. These are the type of behaviors that create a culture of health and wellness.”

Whigham stressed that the district’s relationship with the American Heart Association was a key piece in their understanding and guidance around the direction that the district wanted to move.

“I am confident that our collaboration with the American Heart Association to build a healthier Oceanside is just beginning.”