Those of us at Spoon University seek to foster the appreciation of food on campus and around the community. Just as important is recognizing efforts on a broader level that foster healthy eating as well as lifestyles, and Princeton alumna Nancy Easton has dedicated much of her life to doing just this. Nancy participated in founding Wellness in the Schools in 2005, and has been recognized by various organizations and well-known chefs such as Jamie Oliver. She has a strong background in education, including working for the New York City Department of Education for fifteen years. In addition, Nancy has always been involved in athletics, running in marathons and participating in ironman triathlons; she is a wonderful role model for all of the participants in Wellness in the Schools (WITS).
Wellness in the Schools seeks to promote healthy eating and living, specifically targeting youth in the public school system. Initially launched in just three schools, the program is now in at least fifty schools. Wellness in the Schools continues to partner with various teachers, chefs, parents, and students to create this organization, which offers programs and opportunities for kids in public schools to access and learn about healthy food, the environment, fitness, and more. Wellness in the Schools currently aids “approximately 30,000 public school children in New York City, Kentucky, and Florida.” Two of the biggest Wellness in the Schools initiatives are Cook for Kids and Coach for Kids. The first program is a “hands-on food program” and the second is a fitness program. Michelle Obama, also a Princeton alumna, has nationally recognized the Cook for Kids program.
Nancy Easton was kind enough to answer some questions about her life at Princeton, the organization, and her potential future endeavors. For more information about Easton or the organization, please visit their website here.
- Did a particular person or event inspire you to start this program?
Growing up in a healthy home with a very forward thinking and a health conscious mom definitely got me on a certain track, but ultimately it was about comparing that lifestyle to what I saw in the public schools in NYC in the 90’s. It was the soda and chips for breakfast that really got me wondering.
- What aspects of your Princeton education do you feel helped you most to succeed in creating Wellness in the schools?
I think that the general rigor and the demand for excellence prepared me for anything in life. As a three-sport athlete, I also had to juggle the demands of a tough academic experience with the practices and travel that comes with being a college athlete. Learning to balance is an important life skill.
- You have certainly contributed to the wellness of the world in many ways. What other projects have you undertaken?
In addition to WITS, I am very proud of being a founding board member of Girls on the Run Manhattan: a program that is not necessarily about running but uses running to help girls build their confidence. I believe strongly in the power of sport to build confidence (and so many other life skills). I helped to build a 1600 square-foot hydroponic Greenhouse in the roof of my own children’s public school: a project of love and sweat!
- How do you hope to see Wellness in the schools expand in the future?
In so many ways! We have only just begun. In the next five years, we will grow to serve more and more communities – the goal is 100,000 children in the next five years. We can’t stop until our country begins to prioritize health and wellness in schools and to understand its import on academics.
- What is the next societal issue that you would like to tackle, if any in particular?
I think I have my hands full with wellness!