The Maryland Out of School Time Network held their seventh annual statewide conference on January 5 & 6 in Ellicott City, Md., celebrating the community of out-of-school time practitioners that MOST affectionately calls “OST Heroes.”
The two-day conference was jam-packed with informative workshops, resources from various exhibitors and the first annual MOST awards ceremony. I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a healthy behaviors panel, “Healthy Behaviors: Connecting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Partnerships for OST,” with experts from the Alliance for Healthier Generation, Giant Food, John Hopkins Urban Health Institute, Leveling the Playing Field, and Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education.
The panel had three objectives:
- Build awareness. The prevalence of childhood in Maryland reflects the national average, where approximately one in three children ages two to 19 is overweight or obese. Since the rate of childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades and children are now more likely to acquire risk factors for cardiovascular disease, building awareness of the issue is imperative. The panel also highlighted the sometimes overlooked relationship between food insecurity and obesity.
- Celebrate the network’s healthy eating and physical activity successes. In 2013, through a grant from the Maryland Food Bank provided by the Giant Food Foundation, MOST became the first statewide healthy out-of-school time intermediary to bring healthy eating and physical activity resources, training, and technical assistance to Maryland out-of-school time programs. As a result of the work of three Healthy Behaviors VISTAs and several partnerships that have developed over time, MOST was able to introduce the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Framework, based on the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards, to 30 afterschool sites.
- Take action. Since childhood obesity has become a national epidemic, we can no longer limit our prevention efforts to traditional school hours but must extend our efforts to before and after the school bell rings. To facilitate these efforts, MOST used this panel to inspire OST providers throughout Maryland to adopt the HOST Framework, become a healthy out-of-school time site and engage in the MOST Network’s Healthy Behaviors Learning Community.
The Maryland Out of School Time Network has done impactful work around Healthy Eating and Physical Activity and can be a valuable resource to other networks (and afterschool programs) looking to create and support heathier out-of-school time environments. Way to go, MOST!