Approximately 16 percent of U.S. children ages 6 -19 are overweight, and another 15 percent are at risk of becoming overweight. Afterschool programs can - and do - play an important role in promoting healthy lifestyles for youth. Many afterschool and summer learning programs offer youth an array of organized physical activities and serve healthy afternoon or summer meals and snacks while emphasizing the value of a nutritious diet through hands-on nutrition education. Afterschool programs are well-positioned to be key partners in comprehensive efforts to ensure healthy futures for our youth. Here you will find a variety of resources, links and policy tools that can contribute to the goal of promoting a healthy childhood weight for young people. The Afterschool Alliance's work in the wellness, nutrition and physical activity areas is supported by the Food Research and Action Center through the ConAgra Foods Foundation as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers three different nutrition assistance programs that can help afterschool and summer learning providers offer nutritious meals or snacks to participating children:
- The Summer Food Service Program is a USDA administered program designed to fill the nutrition gap left during the summer months and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need. Our survey of afterschool and summer program providers shows that these programs are an important source of food for the kids they serve, and takes a look at the important role SFSP plays in bringing healthy snacks and meals to kids in need.
- At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program Afterschool programs that participate in the CACFP Afterschool meal (or Snack) program give children and teenagers the nutrition they need, and draw them into constructive activities that are safe, fun, and filled with opportunities for learning.
- The Afterschool Snack Program can be operated by school nutrition departments through the National School Lunch Program.
Afterschool meals are a cost effective way to reduce childhood hunger and promote a healthy childhood weight:
Nutrition Guidelines and Education
- The Quaker Chewy "Get Active: Be Healthy Afterschool Toolkit" offers creative, easy-to-implement ways to integrate health and wellness into afterschool programs, including lesson plans, ideas for field trips and guest speakers, links to funding resources and more. Part of the Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks campaign,
- Let's Move in School is working to ensure that every school provides a comprehensive physical activity program with quality physical education as the foundation so that youth will develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime. Visit the website to find a comprehensive school physical activity program, as well as tools, resources and action items to improve and bolster your program’s physical fitness offerings.
- Center for Collaborative Solutions (CCS) has a useful guide called Changing Lives, Saving Lives: A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Exemplary Practices in Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Food Security in Afterschool Programs.
- Visit the Harvard Family Research Project's Out-of-School Time Program Evaluation Bibliography and Database. It is a searchable database of evaluations of out-of-school time programs, including those related specifically to health, sports and recreation.
- Policies and Standards for Promoting Physical Activity in After-School Programs This brief summarizes research on physical activity in afterschool programs and examines how policies can help afterschool programs more effectively promote physical activity and prevent obesity among children.
- The U.S. National Physical Activity Plan includes strategy 5 under the Education platform: provide access to and opportunities for physical activity before and after school.
- Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Congress reauthorized the federal child nutrition programs in 2010 by passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The bill expanded the At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and made several other necessary changes to the child nutrition programs that greatly benefit children in afterschool programs. Read more about what the Afterschool Alliance’s child nutrition reauthorization priorities were.
- Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization: The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) (currently can be used for out of school time physical activity) authorized by ESEA could be replaced with with the Safe, Successful Healthy Students program. Also in ESEA, the 21st CCLC initiative is due to be reauthorized. Under current law, while there is a reference to recreation activities, there is no reference to physical activity in the statute. The Afterschool for America’s Children Act includes physical activity among its many enhancements to the current law.
- Local Wellness Policies: The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all local education agencies participating in a federal child nutrition program to establish a local wellness policy by the 2006-2007 school year. While the policies have been created, there is still room for afterschool to get involved, and demonstrate that afterschool programs can be key partners in school districts' health-promotion efforts. The Active Hours Afterschool: Local Wellness Policy Toolkit for Afterschool Programs outlines steps that afterschool advocates can take to get involved in the policy process.
- Support legislation in your state: Support policies that promote active and healthy lifestyles for youth. Search the Centers for Disease Control's Nutrition and Physical Activity Legislative Database for summaries of new and existing state-level nutrition and physical activity legislation and policies dating back to 2001.
- Join an Action for Healthy Kids State Team: Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a nationwide initiative dedicated to improving the health and educational performance of children through better nutrition and physical activity in schools, has created State Teams that are implementing Action Plans to improve nutrition and physical activity opportunities for youth.
- Afterschool Obesity Prevention Agenda: In February 2005, the Afterschool Alliance released its national policy agenda on obesity prevention. The agenda calls for significant investment in afterschool as a way to combat childhood obesity and offers policy suggestions geared toward federal and state policy makers, funders and program leaders.
- Making the Case: Use facts and data from Afterschool Alliance Research related to Afterschool and Health to demonstrate the role afterschool programs can play in improving health for children.