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Mar 7, 2016 3:04 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Wellness Foundation To Host Conference For East End Schools

Michele Sacconaghi, president and CEO of the Wellness Foundation. ALYSSA MELILLO
Mar 7, 2016 3:31 PM

At the end of the day, the key to good performance and behavior in school is proper nutrition for children.

That’s the message the Wellness Foundation plans to convey to school officials at its inaugural East End School Wellness Conference, which will be held Friday, March 11, at LTV Studios in Wainscott.

The Sag Harbor-based foundation is co-hosting the event with Southampton Hospital’s Ed and Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute, as well as Bridgehampton-based Edible School Gardens, a local initiative to connect children and their families with real food by encouraging schools to create their own gardens.

Michele Sacconaghi, the Wellness Foundation’s president and CEO, said the goal of the conference is “to create a real culture of wellness” among the teams of parents, leaders and food service workers in every South Fork school district that is attending. Eating healthy and getting regular physical activity, Ms. Sacconaghi explained, result in children performing better in school, while also improving attendance and behavior.

“We want to make it easier for [schools] to learn some of the best practices that are going on,” she said. “It’s an important part of what the schools do to make sure they have healthy kids. It’s not just because it’s good for kids to be healthy, but it all also really impacts their ability to be good, successful students.”

The conference will consist of panels on how schools can provide healthier foods to students, as well as how to strengthen wellness initiatives. There will also be keynote speeches from Robert Pangrazi of Minnesota-based Gopher Sport, a physical education equipment supplier, on the role of physical activity in healthy, successful students, and Mike Gulino of Action for Healthy Kids, a Chicago-based nonprofit, on how to build wellness policies at schools.

Bridgehampton National Bank will also provide a $500 grant to each school district for efforts to improve the health and wellness of their students.

“One of the things I’m most excited about this conference [is that] I really feel like everyone who can have an impact on the lives of healthy children is going to be in the room,” Ms. Sacconaghi said. “Every single school is coming—and they’re all coming with enthusiasm. I think that schools realize what a critical issue this is for the health of their children.”

Because state regulations require all public schools to have wellness committees and policies, Ms. Sacconaghi said she hopes Friday’s conference, which is closed to the public, will provide the insight and tools school districts need to strengthen those efforts.

“There are a lot of great things going on in our schools on the East End. It’s a real trend that is taking place around the country,” she said. “It really does take a group of community people to make a community change.”

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