By Jen Rinehart
Last month, state afterschool leaders from across the country were together in Washington, D.C., to share strategies for advancing afterschool and to discuss the ways that afterschool supports students and families. At the meeting, there was a lively discussion about the role of afterschool in supporting health and wellness for students.
In recent years, national afterschool providers like the Y of the USA, the National Recreation and Park Association, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America have pledged to adopt the National AfterSchool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. To expand beyond the national organizations’ affiliates, several statewide afterschool networks are working to get more programs, regardless of their national affiliation, to adopt the standards. For example:
- The Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network is directly connecting programs with partners and resources that support healthful behaviors; serving as a clearinghouse of information, partnering with the US Tennis Association and working with the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger by 2015 to help ensure healthful snacks and meals are served throughout the school year and during the summer. Check out one of their resources: Eat, Play, Learn: Out of School Time in Action.
- OregonASK and its partners have teamed up to offer a Health and Wellness Toolkit and Afterschool Curriculum. During the 2013-2014 school year the curriculum was piloted at the Woodburn After School Program. The toolkit is available free from OregonASK for use by afterschool programs across the state and beyond.
- In South Carolina, both the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance and the YMCA of Columbia have been playing a statewide leadership role. The YMCA of Columbia partnered with the University of South Carolina to create and evaluate strategies to meet the standards and is now working to help other Ys across the state adopt and meet the HEPA standards using these tested strategies. The South Carolina Afterschool Alliance is working with the South Carolina Obesity Council to include afterschool and the adoption of the HEPA standards as strategies in the South Carolina Obesity State Plan. Finally, both organizations are working with the University of South Carolina to develop centers of excellence—programs that are making the most progress in implementing the standards, strategically located across the state to help other programs come on board.
All three of these states are working closely with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which offers no-cost online tools and resources to help afterschool providers create healthful environments for young people. Working together, state and national organizations can help ensure that local afterschool programs act as key partners in comprehensive efforts to ensure healthy futures for our youth. Check out the resources, links and policy tools from the Afterschool Alliance here.