Written by Matt Freeman
At left, youth from Woodmoor PAL with the PAL center’s new cornhole boards, courtesy of Billy from Creative Touch Graphix. At right, Albert Lewis demonstrates physical activity exercises at University of Maryland Extension 4H.
“Candy’s not a food!”
Those words from an afterschool student at a Boys & Girls Club in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and the fundamental realization about food choices they reflect, go straight to the heart of the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network’s Healthy Behaviors Initiative (HBI).
Begun in 2013, this effort to promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards rests on a web of partnerships MOST has built with afterschool and summer-learning program providers, a statewide hunger relief organization, one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest grocery chains and a university-based nutrition education program.
The initiative began when the MOST Network “became the first statewide healthy-out-of-school time intermediary to bring the training, resources and support of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to out-of-school-time (OST) program providers,” according to Ellie Mitchell, MOST network director.
MOST’s first step was to identify afterschool programs to participate. For that, MOST partnered with the Maryland Food Bank, which operates a meal distribution network based in soup kitchens, food pantries and schools across the state, providing more than 41 million meals to Marylanders every year.
The need for the food bank’s services is pressing. Between 2012 and 2016, as the nation’s economy recovered from the Great Recession, participation in the National School Lunch Program, which provides meal subsidies for children of low-income families, declined nationally by more than 1.3 million children. But Maryland was one of eight states to buck that positive trend as more children from low-income families in the state became eligible. The Food Bank provided support to MOST to work with ten afterschool sites in the Food Bank’s network, with funding provided by the Giant Food Foundation, the charitable arm of a regional grocery store chain.
From April 24 to 28, it's Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week! Sponsored by the National Afterschool Association, the week "is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child care workers, and individuals who have committed to declaring the last full week of April each year as a time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours." It's the ideal opportunity to thank and celebrate the nation’s roughly 850,000 dedicated and passionate afterschool professionals who work with our youth during out-of-school time.
From the Afterschool Alliance, thank you to the afterschool professionals who enrich the lives of their students and communities every day!
As Congress’ Memorial Day recess approaches, your afterschool program has an excellent opportunity to organize a site visit and show your representatives the important work your program is doing. Site visits are a fantastic way for new and established programs alike to build up relationships with elected officials, and for elected officials to see firsthand that afterschool works.
To kick start your site visit planning, here are some top tools and strategies for maximizing your site visit’s impact.
- Check out the Afterschool for All Challenge toolkit. You’ll find a general overview of how to host a successful site visit, some do’s and don’ts for a great event, and a sample invitation for you to send to your member of Congress. Our outreach strategies page also has a five-step plan to conducting a great visit.
- Explore a toolkit from a statewide afterschool network. The Indiana Afterschool Network’s toolkit contains tips, techniques, and templates to make a site visit a success. Read through the planning guide, use the event checklist, and learn how to pitch your site visit to local media to boost your event’s profile.
- Watch a webinar. While you’re developing your strategy, it’s helpful to hear firsthand accounts from other programs and afterschool advocates about their experiences conducting site visits. Check out our webinar on the impact of the president’s budget proposal, with tips from a program director on the best ways to maximize your site visit’s impact.
- Do your research. Know who your elected officials are and what subjects are most important to them. Having insight into a policy maker’s platform makes it much easier to design a visit that will persuade them: if a policy maker has repeatedly expressed concern about childhood obesity, highlighting the work your program does to encourage healthy eating and physical activity will resonate!
- Find your champions. Identify the students, parents, program staff, school officials, and other individuals who are best equipped to represent your program. Ask them if they’d be interested in attending the visit, give them some background on the official who will be present, show them a basic schedule, and encourage them to prepare for a conversation.
- Showcase your best programming. Select the programming you want to highlight during the visit—STEM learning sessions and other academic enrichment are often the top picks for visits. Include the policy maker in snack time and let them interact with your student representatives before facilitating a discussion between parent representatives and the policy maker. The opportunity to let an elected official talk with their constituents about the importance of afterschool is not to be missed!
- Follow up after the visit. The visit may be over, but the conversation has just begun! Be sure to send a thank-you message after the visit and stay in touch with your representative. Having a strong relationship with your elected officials is key to the long-term wellness of your afterschool program.
Finally, here’s some advice from Kim Templeman, a former Afterschool Ambassador and elementary school principal who hosted a successful site visit at her afterschool program:
“Be persistent. Don’t feel like you are imposing on the official’s time—they are there to represent you, and their job is to understand and get involved in what you do. … Be prepared to talk specifics. Don’t just say ‘we still need your funding.’ Explain to the official how you budget your program and show the official what funds support different activities. That way, the official can understand the reality of an afterschool program’s needs, and what your program needs most.”
By Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco, Education Supervisor, City of Hialeah’s Young Leaders with Character, Miami-Dade County, FL.
Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco oversees two programs with 15 out-of-school time sites that have been working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative since 2013.
While many afterschool programs already support kids in making healthy choices by serving nutritious snacks or offering physically active games, we can have a bigger impact by adopting a comprehensive wellness policy that ensures these practices are uniform and long-lasting.
We’re using the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time model wellness policy to develop a strategy that meets our wellness goals and aligns with national standards. We’re learning a lot along the way – and already seeing great progress!
That’s why we’re thrilled that the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in partnership with the American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, launched a campaign called #WellnessWins about the benefits of wellness policies.
I’m excited to share three of the top-performing strategies we use to adopt wellness policies in our afterschool sites.
Reinforce healthy messages kids learn in school
When schools and afterschool programs coordinate wellness policy priorities, students receive a consistent message that their health is a priority, no matter the setting. Like Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we provide USDA-compliant snacks and encourage students to participate in at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity five days a week.
Elevate staff members as role model
Afterschool staff can set a healthy example by consuming nutritious foods and beverages and staying active. A wellness policy can provide staff with guidelines on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and become a positive role model for kids.
Encourage students to engage in wellness
We incorporate nutrition lessons into our afterschool program and summer camp to encourage kids to try new foods and learn new recipes. When kids have a hands-on experience, they’re more likely to be excited about practicing healthy habits for years to come.
Ready to follow our lead and achieve wellness wins in your afterschool program? Visit WellnessWins.org to get started today!
This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. The most recent Afterschool Spotlight illustrated how an Iowa afterschool program built a valuable partnership with local law enforcement.
|Photo courtesy of the Haddonfield Sun|
After three decades of serving as the director of Haddonfield Child Care, Denise Sellers finds herself thinking about one crucial concept: perspective.
“As I start to make the transition out of this role,” Denise says, “I find myself thinking more and more about new viewpoints. In 1986 I was the right person to hire because I understood the plight of the parents, but there might be something I’m missing as I become part of another generation. Fresher perspective is something that will help the program remain responsive and relevant in the future.”
But that’s not to say that the program isn’t responsive and relevant now. The community of Haddonfield, N.J. has benefited from the exemplary childcare provided by Denise and her team for more than 30 years. This year marks two celebratory occasions for the program: first, an alumnus has enrolled his own child in Haddonfield Child Care, giving the program its first second-generation student.
Second, Denise has been honored as a recipient of a New Jersey Women of Achievement Award. The Haddonfield Sun's recent profile on Denise describes the award as celebrating women who take leadership roles in improving their communities and dedicate their personal and professional lives to creating a positive and lasting impact on others. It’s a description that fits Denise to a T.
Denise describes Haddonfield as small and close-knit, with a vibrant spirit of volunteerism and plenty of overlapping attendance across community groups. It’s a recipe for high buy-in; when members of the Garden Club are also members of the Women’s Club, there’s an opportunity to make connections across the community and encourage reciprocity.
“Because they know me from other community groups, I was able to go to the Women’s Club as an afterschool professional and ask them to support funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers,” Denise says. “Haddonfield Child Care isn’t eligible for it, but we know how important it is for other communities in New Jersey. I was able to advocate on the part of other afterschool programs because my connections to other community groups were already there.”
We are proud to announce that the Afterschool Alliance has been named one of the National AfterSchool Association’s picks for Most Influential in Health & Wellness 2017. Sponsored by The Walking Classroom, NAA’s Most Influential in Health & Wellness distinguishes “individuals and organizations whose service, action, and leadership align with and support the NAA Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards and affect large numbers of youth, families, and afterschool professions.”
Honorees were profiled in the spring 2017 issue of NAA’s AfterSchool Today magazine. According to the feature, the Afterschool Alliance was honored for “bringing together national, state, and local organizations to promote [NAA’s HEPA] standards within state-level policies and legislation.”
Across the nation, healthy eating and physical fitness programs benefit millions of children in out-of-school time, playing an important role in building a generation of young people who are invested in living healthy, active lives. To get a snapshot view of the field, the Afterschool Alliance’s Director of Health and Wellness Initiatives Tiereny Lloyd offered some perspective on the challenges and victories of health and wellness programming in the afterschool field.
On health and wellness standards
“When the HEPA standards were introduced, they were rolled out with the larger nonprofit organizations—like YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs—that had the infrastructure to be able to disseminate information about the standards and support implementation. But for the programs that aren’t attached to those organizations, what about them? How do we reach those we don’t have direct access to—especially when they’re the ones who need it most? There’s a big communication gap.
Currently, 60 percent of afterschool programs know about the HEPA standard, which leaves 40 percent that do not. I would like to see 100 percent of afterschool programs at least know about them and almost that many actually utilizing the standards. The standards are very comprehensive, so it takes a lot of time and resources to complete all of them, but I would like to see every program using some form of those standards.”
Salutations! My name is Charlotte Steinecke and I’m delighted to introduce myself as the new Communications and Editorial Associate at the Afterschool Alliance. It’s a privilege to join such a dedicated team united for a worthy cause, particularly at such a politically exciting moment.
As the significantly older stepsister to two school-age boys, I get to see firsthand the way a good afterschool program helps students and parents in so many different ways. Getting to take that personal investment and make it the subject of my work every day is a wonderful opportunity!
I come to the Afterschool Alliance from LivingSocial, where I was the editor on the travel vertical and worked closely with the marketing team. I’ve also worked at various nonprofits and corporate entities in D.C., including the Association of American Medical Colleges and ThinkFoodGroup. I’m a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and an indefatigable proponent of holistic—and exceptional!—education at all levels.
As the Communications and Editorial Associate at the Afterschool Alliance, I’ll be managing the Afterschool Snack blog (hello, audience! We’ll be seeing a lot of each other.) and providing communications and editorial support across the organization. I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the Alliance’s work supporting afterschool programs, providers, families, and students across the nation.
As the spring recess comes to DC, many senators and members of Congress will soon be back in their home districts. It’s an opportunity for constituents (like you!) to meet with lawmakers face-to-face and directly communicate the importance of afterschool in their community. Meetings with representatives offer a chance at a meaningful conversation about afterschool and studies have shown that site visits are powerful tools to make the case for afterschool.
Make the most of the recess with a phone call to your representative, asking to set up a district office meeting or a site visit so they can see the incredible work being done in your afterschool program.
- Establish your goals. Are you interested in inviting your representative to visit your afterschool program, or would you prefer to set up a meeting at the representative’s office to discuss your concerns about President Trump’s proposal to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers? Decide on your strategy.
- Find your Senate and House representatives. Click through to your senator or representative’s website to find district office locations in your state—many reps have more than one!
- Get in touch. The best way to communicate with your representative is through a phone call. Phone up the district office nearest to you and make your request. A simple script is all you need: “Hi, my name is [your name] from [your town] and I would like to schedule a meeting with the senator/congressperson to discuss the importance of afterschool funding and share some information about our afterschool program. What is the senator/congressperson’s availability during the spring recess?”
- Prepare for the meeting. Brush up on some talking points. If you decide on a site visit, check out our guide to hosting a successful congressional visit to maximize the impact of the experience. If a district office meeting is more suitable, brush up on your representative’s stance on education and afterschool and prepare some clear questions and requests to help keep the conversation on track.
- Tell the world. If you do manage to schedule a meeting during the recess, we want to hear how it went! Please share your story through our survey tool and be sure to tweet and post on Facebook about the meeting.
- Don’t give up! If your representative’s schedule is too packed to accommodate a visit or meeting in the immediate future, don’t be discouraged! The act of calling your representative sends a powerful message about your concern for and passion about afterschool—as a constituent, this message matters.
Many representatives are very busy during their spring recess, visiting around the state and interacting with constituents—but simply making the phone call is in itself an important way to show where you stand on protecting afterschool resources for kids. Whether you schedule a site visit, attend a district office meeting, or just make a phone call, carving a slice of your representative’s attention for afterschool is one of the best ways to have an impact on their decision-making process.
Looking for more ways to take action? Check out the Take Action to Save Afterschool page for more resources and strategies.