Nutrition and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

Nutrition is a bedrock of academic achievement, behavior and school climate. Whether apparent in school cafeteria selections, vending machines and other privately sold foods, or candy shared throughout the school day. Meaningful Student Involvement can be a key to transforming school nutrition.

What It Is

School nutrition is meant to provide proper nutrition for students to support the growth, development and learning of students in schools. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools have a huge impact of student health. Because of their role in society and exposure in schools, students can learn healthy eating and receive healthy foods from schools like nowhere else. Nutritious, appealing foods and drinks should be provided in school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars, school stores, and other places in schools that offer food and beverages to students. Nutrition education should also be part of a comprehensive school health education curriculum, and nutrition staff should be part of every school, district and state coordinated school health approach.

Opportunities for Meaningful Student Involvement

As students become more accustomed to personalized learning, teaching and leadership throughout schools, they want more relevant food choices to support their experiences in schools. School nutrition has to be as engaging as classroom education. While society is embracing greater health in nutrition, schools are responsible for doing the same. Meaningful Student Involvement can facilitate this. There are examples of this work happening around the world.

  • BOSTON: The Boston Student Advisory Council met regularly and advised a group over the course of a year with representatives from Boston Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services to discuss issues related to school food and vending machines.  Students advised a group of doctors working with the Nutrition Group on how to create healthy snacks that students will actually eat.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Student involvement in wellness goals was promoted by having them work with local education agencies to develop Local Wellness Policies. Participating in the research, evaluation and re-design of school nutrition policies, student engagement was shown to increase, as did student acceptance in an array of health-related areas. Research found this approach may have promise in the area of obesity prevention. (Jomaa, L. H., E. McDonnell, et al. (2010) “Student Involvement in Wellness Policies: A Study of Pennsylvania Local Education Agencies,” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 42(6): 372-379)

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Youth United for Change

Youth United for Change is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

With the slogan, “Education is a right, not a privilege,” Youth United for Change is a youth-led, democratic organization made up of youth of color and working class communities, with the “people” and political power to hold school officials and government accountable to meeting the educational needs of Philadelphia public school students.

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Park Forest Elementary School

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

Elementary students are often lost in the fray when it comes to substantive student voice. Not so at Park Forest Elementary School in State College, Pennsylvania.

Through her school’s work focused on Meaningful Student Involvement, a school leader in Pennsylvania has successfully engaged students as policy-makers who are molding school culture and driving positive Student/Adult Partnerships every day. Donnan Stoicovy, the lead learner at Park Forest Elementary School, created a student-led constitution process at her school in 2012.

That year, students from kindergarten through fifth grade attended eight all-school town hall meetings focused on their ideal schools. Working with adults who had a variety of jobs, over the following six months a schoolwide constitution was created.

Adults and students received training, were guided through the process and worked together to build the democratic environment of their school. (McGarry & Stoicovy, 2014)

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Philadelphia Student Union

The Philadelphia Student Union has been working for more than a decade to promote a student-inclusive vision for school reform. PSU “exists to build the power of young people to demand a high quality education in the Philadelphia public school system”. Their work is powerful, effective, and deep.

A recent examination of the Philadelphia Student Union summarized one part of the need for students to take action to change schools, reporting,

“Student voice is critical not just because students have the greatest stake in schools and school systems and not just because their first-hand experiences can help us understand the real life consequences of policies and practice, but also because students are uniquely positioned to challenge neoliberal logic… [B]y flipping the script, establishing broad-based alliances, and demonstrating historical vigilance on issues that matter, the Philadelphia Student Union shows how students can take on critical leadership roles in the struggle for educational equity.” (Conner & Rosen, 2013)

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Students on School Boards in Pennsylvania

This is the SoundOut Students On School Boards Toolkit by Adam Fletcher. It includes research, examples and more. SoundOut offers professional development and training! For more information contact us.

Here are facts about students on school boards in Pennsylvania.

  • In 1972, the Pennsylvania state department of education reported that they encouraged local school boards to consider roles for students on school boards.
  • Today, students can join district school boards but cannot vote.
  • Selection methods vary, with appointments, selections and student council presidents being selected. Students cannot vote on the state school board.
  • Students are formal members of the state school board association and receive specific training to support their involvement.
  • The state school board association has a program for student board representatives at their annual conference.

Students on School Boards Toolkit

Students on School Boards in Canada


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Feature on Dana Mitra

Dana Mitra is a bright light shining for student voice. Since the inception of SoundOut in 2002, Dana has provided constant inspiration and guidance, gently pushing our thinking as we established the frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement and making strident efforts to take student voice further across the United States.

Dana began her career in education as a teacher in the Washington DC area. With her PhD from Stanford University’s School of Education, she has become an Associate Professor of Education in the Educational Theory and Policy program at Penn State University. She is the Director of the Willower Center for Ethics and Leadership at Penn State and a co-Editor for the American Journal of Education, and served as a Fulbright-Nehru scholar to Bangalore, India in 2012.

Learn more about Dana and contact her at the Penn State University website.

Dana Mitra Bibliography

  • Mitra, D. (2015). The intersection of student voice and policy research. In Conner, J. and Rosin, R. (Eds.) Student voice in American educational policy: A national society for the study of education yearbook. NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Mitra, D. (2015) Forward in Brasoff, M., Student voice and school governance: Distributing leadership to youth and adults. NY: Routledge.
  • Serriere, S. & Mitra, D. (2014). Service-learning to empower second graders as change agents. In A. Libresco (Ed.), Exemplary Elementary Social Studies:  Case Studies in Practice (pp. xx-xx). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Kawai, R., Serriere, S, & Mitra, D. (2104). Fostering civic efficacy and action through fifth graders’ civic ‘zines. In A. Libresco (Ed.), Exemplary Elementary Social Studies:  Case Studies in Practice (pp. 35-58). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Cook-Sather, A and Mitra, D. (2013). Linking across the links: Student voice works-in-progress. Connect: supporting student participation, 202, August, 11-16. ISSN 2202-4980
  • Mitra, D. L. (2012). Increasing student voice in school reform: Building partnerships, improving outcomes. In Kelly, B. and Perkins, D. (Eds), Handbook of Implementation Science for Psychology in Education (pp. 361-372). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mitra, D.L. & Kirshner, B. (2012). Insiders versus outsiders—Examining variability in student voice initiatives and their consequences for school change. In B. McMahon & J. Portelli (Ed.), Student engagement in urban schools: Beyond neoliberal discourses (pp. 49-72). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing
  • Mitra, D. & Zheng, A. (2011). Pennsylvania’s best investment: The social and economic benefits of public education. Education Law Center. Philadelphia, PA.
  • Mitra, D.L., Frick W. C., & Crawford, E. (2011). The ethical dimensions of student voice activities in the United States. In G. Czerniawski & W. Kidd (Eds.) The Student Voice Handbook: Bridging the Academic/Practitioner Divide (pp. 369- 380). London: Emerald.
  • Serriere, S. & Mitra, D. (2011). Student voice and youth development. In C. Day (Ed), Handbook on Teacher and School Development (pp. 223-232). New York: Sage.
  • Boggess, L. & Mitra, D. (2011). The extraordinary mentorship of Bill Boyd. Peabody Journal of Education, 86, 4, 380-389.
  • Eckert, S & Mitra, D.L. (2011). Policy. Oxford Biographies Online. New York: Oxford Press.
  • Mitra, D.L. (2011). Student participation. Oxford Biographies Online. New York: Oxford Press.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2009). Amplifying student voice. In M. Scherer (Ed.), Engaging the whole child: Reflections on best practices in learning, teaching, and leadership. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2008). Making it ‘real’: The role of student voice in reforming classroom practice. Educational Leadership, 66, 3, 20-25.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2008). Student voice or empowerment? Examining the role of school-based youth-adult partnerships as an avenue toward focusing on social justice. In A. Normore (Ed.), Leadership for social justice: Promoting equity and excellence through inquiring and reflective practice (pp. 193-212). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Mitra, D., Perkins, D., Movit, M. (2006, June) Second Mile Leadership Institute 2006: Report from the evaluation’s open ended questions. The Pennsylvania State University, College of Education.
  • Mitra, D., Movit, M., Perkins, D. (2006, June) The Make a Difference Conference 2006 Executive Summary. The Pennsylvania State University, College of Education.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2005). Increasing student voice and moving toward youth leadership. The Prevention Researcher, 13, 1, 7–10.
  • McLaughlin, M. & D. L. Mitra. (2003). The cycle of inquiry as the engine of school reform: Lessons from the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative. Stanford, CA: Center for Research on the Context of Teaching.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2001) Opening the floodgates: Giving students a voice in school reform. Forum. United Kingdom. September.
  • Stites, R. & D. L. Mitra. (2001). Palo Alto Unified school district team. In Penuel, W. R., & Korbak, C. (Eds.). Silicon Valley Challenge 2000 Longitudinal Case Studies Final Report. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
  • Brezicha, K., Bergmark, U. & Mitra, D. (2015). One Size Does Not Fit All: Differentiating Leadership to Intentionally Support Teachers in School Reform. Education Administration Quarterly, 51, 1, 96-132.
  • Kawai, R., Serriere, S., & Mitra, D. (2014). Contested Spaces of a “Failing” Elementary School. Theory and Research in Social Education, 42, 4, 486-515
  • Mitra, D., Serriere, S., & Kirshner, B. (2014). Youth participation in U.S. contexts: Student voice without a national mandate. Children & Society, 28, 4, 292-304
  • Mitra, D., Lewis, T., & Sanders, F. (2013). Architects, Captains, and Dreamers: Creating Advisor Roles that Foster Youth-Adult Partnerships. Journal of Educational Change, 14, 2, 177-201.
  • Serriere, S., McGarry, L., Fuentes, D., & Mitra, D. (2012). The thinking that service-learning ignites. Social Studies and the Learner, 9, 4, 6-10.
  • Mitra, D. L. & Halabi, S. (2012). Paradoxes in policy practice: Signaling post-secondary pathways in the Rust Belt. Teachers College Record, 114, 1, 1-34.
  • Mitra, D., & Serriere, S. (2012). Student voice in elementary-school reform: Examining youth development in fifth graders. American Educational Research Journal, 49, 743774, doi:10.3102/0002831212443079
  • Mitra, D., Serriere, S, & Stoicovy, D. (2012). The role of leaders in enabling student voice. Management in Education, 26, 3, 104-112.
  • Serriere, S. & Mitra, D. (2012). Student voice and youth development. In C. Day (Ed), Handbook on Teacher and School Development. New York: Sage.
  • Serriere, S. C., Mitra, D. L., & Reed, K. (2011). Student voice in the elementary years: Fostering youth-adult partnerships in elementary service-learning. Theory and Research in Social Education, 39, 4, 541-575.
  • Mitra, D. L. & Frick, W.F. (2011). Civic capacity in educational reform efforts: Finding agency in a time of globalization. Educational Policy, 25, 5, 810-843.
  • Serriere, S. C., Mitra, D. L. & Cody, J. (2010). Youth citizens taking action: Better school lunches, and more. Social Studies and the Learner, November.
  • Mitra, D., Sanders, F., and Perkins, D. (2010). Providing spark and stability: The role of intermediary organizations in establishing school-based youth-adult partnerships. Applied Developmental Science, (14), 12, 1-18.
  • Mitra, D. L. & Gross, S. J. (2009). Increasing student voice in high school reform: Building partnerships, improving outcomes. Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership, 37, 4, 452-473.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2009).Collaborating with students: Building youth-adult partnerships in schools. American Journal of Education, 15, 3, 407-436.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2009). Student voice and student roles in education policy and policy reform. In D. N. Plank, G. Sykes & B. Schneider (Eds.), AERA Handbook on Education Policy Research (pp. 819-830). London: Routledge.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2009). Strengthening student voice initiatives in high schools: An examination of the supports needed for school-based youth-adult partnerships. Youth and Society 40, 3, 311-335.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2009). The role of intermediary organizations in sustaining student voice initiatives. Teachers College Record 111, 7, 1834-1868.
  • Syvertsen, A.K., Stout, M.D., Flanagan, C.A with Mitra, D. L., Oliver, M.B., Sundar, S. S. (2009). Using elections as teachable moments: A randomized evaluation of the Student Voices civic education program. American Journal of Education, 116, 1, 33-66.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2008). Student voice in school reform: Building youth-adult partnerships that strengthen schools and empower youth. Albany, NY, State University of New York Press.
  • Mitra, D. L., Frick, W. C., & Movit, Marcela A. (2008). Brain drain in the Rust Belt: Can educational reform help to build civic capacity in struggling communities? Educational Policy, 22, 731-757.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2008). Balancing power in communities of practice: An examination of increasing student voice through school-based youth-adult partnerships. Journal of Educational Change, 9, 3, 221-324.
  • Sanders, F., Movit, M., Mitra, D., & Perkins, D. F. (2007). Examining ways in which youth conferences can spell out gains in positive youth development. LEARNing Landscapes, 1, 1, 49-78.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2007). The role of administrators in enabling youth-adult partnerships in schools. NASSP Bulletin, 91, 3, 237-256.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2007). Student voice in school reform: From listening to leadership. In D. Thiessen & A. Cook-Sather (Eds.), International Handbook of Student Experience in Elementary and Secondary School. (pp. 727-744). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2006). Student voice or empowerment? Examining the role of school-based youth-adult partnerships as an avenue toward focusing on social justice. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 10, 22, http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~iejll/.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2006). Youth as a bridge between home and school: Comparing student voice and parent involvements as strategies for change. Education and Urban Society, 38(4), 455-480.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2006). Educational change on the inside and outside: The positioning of challengers. International Journal of Leadership Education, 9, 4, 315-328.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2005). Adults advising youth: Leading while getting out of the way. Educational Administration Quarterly, 41, 3, 520-553.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2004). The significance of students: Can increasing “student voice” in schools lead to gains in youth development. Teachers College Record, 106, 4, 651–688.
  • Mitra, D. L. (2003). Student voice in school reform: Reframing student-teacher relationships. McGill Journal of Education, 38, 2, 289–304.
  • McLaughlin, M., & D. L. Mitra. (2001). Theory-based change and change-based theory: Going deeper, going broader. Journal of Educational Change, 3, 1, 301–323.

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