Children are influenced by parents, family, peers, and their perceptions of community and societal norms. Nowhere do these interconnecting levels of influence come together but in schools, making schools the ideal and essential organization in influencing a child’s positive behavior toward good nutrition and physical activity. Children and adolescents spend the majority of their time in schools; therefore it is critical that schools incorporate healthful eating and physical activity as part of a total learning environment. The school community of classmates and adults also functions as a worksite, for the children involved in the work of learning, and also for the adults employed in teaching and providing for the children in their care.
Further, it is the local school, in many rural West Virginia communities, that functions as a center for community activities unrelated specifically to education. Local events and meetings are frequently located at schools, and parents are involved not only as parents but as members of the community. It is essential that the school environment, which includes the classroom, cafeteria, and school grounds, not only positively affect a child’s decision making skills, but also lend power to the messages conveyed to the community on many levels regarding physical activity and healthy eating choices. Because of the multiplicity of influences schools have on our society, the long-term objectives for children and adolescents are located in this section. However, many of the strategies and action steps implemented in schools will have secondary effects on all levels of the social-ecological model.