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MAY
26
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Sign your organization to the HOST Coalition letter

By Charlotte Steinecke

With the Trump administration’s full FY2018 budget released just this week, it’s time for afterschool programs, professionals, and organizations to rally together and push back against a budget that would eliminate federal afterschool and out-of-school time funding.

The Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition has drafted a letter to Congress that sends a strong, unified message in support of federal policies and programs that promote health and wellness for children across the country. The letter particularly mentions the ways afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs provide a crucial link between federal health and wellness policies for children and the real life actions that help children grow up strong, active, and at a healthy childhood weight.

“With an established record of accomplishment, afterschool and summer learning programs should not be underestimated as potential 'game changers' in promoting wellness among young people and therefore funding that support these programs must be maintained,” the letter reads.

National or state organizations are strongly urged to sign the letter in order to demonstrate the broad support for healthy out of school time programs.

Read the letter here. To sign on, click here and complete the form by 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 2.

MAY
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Make each day healthier for all children with Voices for Healthy Kids

By Charlotte Steinecke

As the only online national network of people focusing on helping kids grow up at a healthy weight, the Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center (formerly PreventObesity.com) is the place where leaders and organizations connect with hundreds of thousands of health and wellness supporters in advocacy efforts and policy implementation.

Childhood obesity remains a serious issue confronting kids across the nation, and the out-of-school time programs in which they participate have a lot of opportunities to help improve their health. From the food choices families make and food preparation to food affordability and the physical activity kids experience each day, there’s a lot to do to build a network of people that can make change happen.

Check out the list of active campaigns, explore the advocate toolbox, and sign up to become an Action Center leader or create an organization profile so you'll receive updates on the latest news about helping kids in your community live, play, and learn healthier. 

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learn more about: Health and Wellness Nutrition
MAY
15
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Join the #GirlsAre campaign to celebrate girls in sports!

By Charlotte Steinecke

  

There’s a health and wellness crisis facing girls in the United States, and it’s playing out—or not playing out—in physical education classes and field days across the country. Compared to their male peers, girls are far less likely to achieve the recommended amounts of physical activity, and girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys by the time they reach age 14.

To combat this worrying trend, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Clinton Foundation are teaming up for their second year of the #GirlsAre campaign. You can join the #GirlsAre social media movement to showcase the strength of girls, sign a pledge to celebrate girls’ athleticism, and write an empowering note to your younger, athletic self. 

In a statement of support for the #GirlsAre campain, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and board member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Chelsea Clinton said, “Data shows that across the United States, less than 50 percent of middle school girls get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Why does this matter? This gap in physical activity results in fewer opportunities for girls to develop critical teamwork, confidence, and leadership skills that will help them thrive throughout their lives – as well as to be physically healthy.”

Bringing together more than 40 media partners, nonprofit organizations, and influential voices, the #GirlsAre campaign will run from May 15 to June 4, coinciding with National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May. Join the movement on Facebook and Twitter!

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
APR
25
2017

IN THE FIELD
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How Maryland afterschool partnerships promote health and wellness

By Charlotte Steinecke

Written by Matt Freeman

 

At left, youth from Mars Estates 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.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Health and Wellness
APR
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Three ways to score #WellnessWins after school

By Charlotte Steinecke

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!

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learn more about: Guest Blog Health and Wellness
APR
14
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Alliance among NAA’s Most Influential in Health & Wellness

By Charlotte Steinecke

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.”

MAR
21
2017

POLICY
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Medicaid cuts affect student services in school

By Jillian Luchner

The new administration and Congress are considering changes to current federal health care law, including the components known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Discussions suggest Medicaid, medical aid to low-income families, may be cut by as much as 25 percent.

School districts use Medicaid funding for a number of student services, such as paying for medical supports required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and providing diagnostic screenings and treatments for issues that directly affect children’s well-being and in-class performance, like vision and hearing concerns, diabetes, and asthma. A recent survey by the School Superintendents Association reports that Medicaid dollars also fund health professionals, provide outreach and coordination of services to students, expand health-related services, and give students with disabilities the technologies they need for an equitable education. A table of state by state expenditures on school based services showcases how important the federal contribution is to schools and students.

Schools that continue to fund these necessary services in the face of cuts would have to find the money to fill gaps somewhere, which would mean less money channeled to other programs for schools and students. Organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) oppose the cuts and argue that these services for children constitute investments.

“Children with health coverage are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, and become healthier adults with higher taxable earnings than uninsured children. Ensuring children and their parents have access to the medically necessary services they need from providers trained to serve children is critical to positive outcomes,” a CDF sign-on letter to Congress on potential health care reform reports. “We urge you to commit to build on the progress made over the past five decades to expand and improve health coverage for children, and, at a minimum, to “do no harm.”

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learn more about: Federal Policy Health and Wellness
MAR
15
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Weekly Media Roundup: March 15, 2017

By Luci Manning

Catonsville Elementary School Community Service Group Expands (Baltimore Sun, Maryland)

Over the course of the school year, Westchester Elementary School students have run a candy drive for troops overseas, written thank-you notes to their teachers and compiled goodie bags for firefighters and police officers as part of a community service-focused afterschool program. EPIK Kids in Action shows the children ways they can give back to their community, preparing them for the 75 hours of service they need to log before they graduate high school. “Watching them serve and be excited about serving others is really cool,” teacher Maria Buker told the Baltimore Sun. “To see the big heart that’s inside of them, the fact that they want to do this and not run home and play video games, to make a human impact, you can’t put words on that.”

Citywide Poets Helps Detroit Youths Discover Themselves (Detroit Free Press, Michigan)

A poetry-focused afterschool program is building Detroit-area teens’ self-confidence by giving them a creative outlet and training them in writing and public speaking. Citywide Poets runs writing workshops after school and during the summer, offering students performance opportunities, pairing them with mentors and even helping them publish their poems. “I was a very shy child that didn’t like speaking or talking,” 16-year-old Wes Matthews told the Detroit Free Press. “I didn’t like my own writing. But after a while, I… [believed] in myself and the power of expressing yourself through poetry.”

Acquiring Hockey Skills and a Sense of Community, Youngsters Warm to Golden Knights (Las Vegas Sun, Nevada)

More than 60 After-School All-Stars students had a chance to learn hockey skills from the Vegas Golden Knights at a special event last week. Students met with team executives and played street hockey, oversized Jenga and beanbags with the NHL players. The Golden Knights partner with Toyota to run a youth hockey clinic in the area, and this event was another way for the team to engage with the community. “It has been a tremendous experience for the students,” ASAS executive director Jodi Manzella told the Las Vegas Sun. “For them to experience what it’s like to have partners in the community like the Golden Knights and Toyota to show the kids that there are people, businesses and organizations that want to invest in them. It’s truly priceless for the students.”

Oakley Library Haven for Teens at Afterschool Program (East Bay Times, California)

Students in Freedom High School, and their younger siblings and peers, now have a safe space to decompress after a long week at Oakley Library’s Teen Haven. The Friday afterschool program provides snacks and activities for the students before they head home for the weekend, giving them a place to spend time with their friends, meet new people and relax by playing games, doing crafts or watching movies. According to the East Bay Times, the program is free for students from sixth through 12th grade and is run by the Oakley Library Youth Squad.