The Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST), comprised of leaders in out-of-school time care and health promotion—including the Afterschool Alliance—recently announced
comprehensive national nutrition and physical activity standards for afterschool programs
serving children in grades K-12. The new guidelines are the latest tool in the fight to promote a healthy childhood weight for the more than 8 million children that participate in out-of-school programs.
The new standards are the result of a comprehensive research project funded by the
. Over the course of a year, HOST conducted a national online survey of more than 700 afterschool programs across the country and examined best practices and existing standards and guidelines for providing healthy eating and physical activity opportunities.
Past studies have concluded that children who regularly participate in structured out-of-school time programs are at lower risk for obesity than their peers who do not participate. Furthermore, the opportunity to provide children with nutrition education and physical activity during afterschool programs is also
. These new evidence-based guidelines will be a useful tool for programs nationwide to fully seize that opportunity.
Among the recommended standards outlined for out-of-school programs—which include before and after school programs, day camps and overnight camps—are:
Serving fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned) as options instead of cake, cookies, candy and chips
Offering water as the preferred drink option during snack times instead of juices, punch or soda
Dedicating at least 20 percent, or at least 30 minutes, of morning or afterschool program time to physical activity (60 minutes for a full day program)
Ensuring that daily physical activity time includes aerobic and age-appropriate muscle and bone strengthening and cardio-respiratory fitness activities
Additionally, the new standards elevate the importance of training out-of-school program staff on the role of healthy eating, physical activity and social supports for healthy behavior.
The standards have already been adopted by the National Afterschool Association (NAA) and the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA). The HOST Coalition plans to encourage afterschool programs to begin conducting self-assessment to see how they compare to the standards as a first step towards implementing changes. Local Ys around the country will begin evaluating their out-of-school programming and begin the process of adopting the standards this year.
The HOST Coalition came together in January 2009, led by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, together with Jean Wiecha fromthe University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) and the Y-USA. The vision for this national coalition of out-of-school-time leaders is to foster health and well-being practices in afterschool programs nationwide, using science-based standards for healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and social supports for these behaviors including staff, family and child engagement.