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California sets a healthy precedent with DASH program

By Tiereny Lloyd

California’s Senate Bill 949 has established the state’s Distinguished After-School Health (DASH) program, a recognition program that encourages healthy foods, beverages, physical activity and limited screen time in afterschool programs. Authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D- Santa Barbara) and administered by the California Department of Education, DASH was signed into law in 2014.

Since then, the California Department of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction have been creating a DASH portal for both parents and programs. Parents searching for a healthy afterschool program will be able to find a list of DASH-certified programs on the state’s website, and DASH-certified programs will be able to display their certifications at program sites and on their website or materials.

Starting in March, providers of afterschool programs in the before-school, afterschool or summer learning program settings throughout the state can request certification. Applications will be accepted until April 8, 2016 and certificates will be valid for two years. To become certified, programs must show evidence of fulfilling the following requirements, which are largely consistent with the National Afterschool Association's Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards:

  • All staff are trained on standards related to the DASH program
  • Regular nutrition and health training is provided to attendees and parents
  • All staff and attendees are served drinking water
  • Attendees are served foods that meet DASH requirements
  • Attendees participate in 30-60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily
  • Program attendees' screen time is limited to comply with DASH requirements
  • Fundraising activities comply with DASH requirements

Considering that California serves over 1.5 million children in afterschool programs, of which 450,000 are low-income, the DASH program has the potential to positively impact a substantial number of children. The DASH program is also an excellent example of how public policy can play a role in promoting healthy childhood weight and lifestyles.