Implementing Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs in School Settings
I. Overview: Much has been written about childhood obesity in the last five years and millions of federal dollars have been invested in interventions and policies. A focus of youth obesity prevention efforts inevitably targets the school setting. Why? Over 95 percent of children and youth are enrolled in schools (National Center for Education Statistics) and physical activity and healthy eating have long been fundamental aspects of the education system in the United States. Because recent research has demonstrated the connection between physical activity, good nutrition, and academic performance as well as the impact of targeted, sustained obesity prevention interventions on children’s health, schools are seen as an effective system for addressing childhood obesity and its related behaviors. (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.)
There are several effective approaches when it comes to implementing physical activity and nutrition programs in the school setting:
- After School Setting – According to the evidence, impactful after school programs, or SAFE programs, implement four practices: 1) staff use a sequenced step-by-step training approach, 2) staff emphasize Active forms of learning by having youth practice new skills, 3) specific time and attention is Focused on skill development; and 4) programs are Explicit in defining the skills they are attempting to promote. The National After School Association has established standards for healthy eating and physical activity specifically for out-of-school time programs. These standards highlight best practices in after school menus and movement.
- Classroom Setting- Integrating physical activity (PA) and nutrition content with core academic concepts is becoming more popular and relevant given trends in children’s diet and sedentary behavior. Research in classroom-based PA suggests it is beneficial and potentially “fitness promoting” for children. Movement can occur in the classroom without compromising learning and, in fact, some studies suggest PA may enhance on-task behavior, student concentration, memory, and academic achievement. Program examples include Brain Gym, Michigan Brain Breaks, Energizers and TAKE10!®.
- Breakfast - Studies have shown that breakfast improves children's standardized test performance, memory, concentration, behavior and health. For students, ideal breakfast foods are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein. Food for Thought is a three-year "Breakfast in the Classroom" campaign to ensure that students in the Los Angeles Unified School District eat a nutritious breakfast every morning. By the end of the 2013 school year, 300 schools in LAUSD will have Breakfast in the Classroom programming. Click here for more information
- Lunch: Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids -The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 ensures that low-income children can participate in child nutrition programs and receive the meals they need. Highlights include: 1) expanding the After school Meal Program to all 50 states; 2) implementing strategies to reduce red tape in helping children obtain school meals; 3) enhancing the nutritional quality of food served in school-based and preschool settings; and 4) trying to improve the health of “competitive foods” offered or sold in schools. Click here for more information
- Recess- A 2009 Pediatrics article reported a link between recess and classroom behavior among about 11,000 children age 8 and 9. Those who had more than 15 minutes of recess a day showed better behavior in class than those who had little or none. Instant Recess, the brainchild of Dr. Toni Yancey, provides structured 10-minute breaks for children and youth of all ages. Click here for more information.
- Policy- Policy is important for codifying, sustaining, and providing accountability for efforts to infuse physical activity into the school setting. However, in drafting policy language, it is often necessary to make tough decisions between what is best practice and what is realistic for a given school, district, or state.
III. Grantee Focus
- 2012 Outreach Grantee Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department’s CATCH UP Program
The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) utilizes the Coordinated Approach to Child Health(CATCH) Program, CATCH UP, along with Consortium partners representing 5 local elementary schools with children in grades Kindergarten to 5th. Click here to hear more about the CATCH UP program.
2012 Outreach Grantee- Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital
Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital is implementing the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Program in two rural counties in Oregon. They are in 12 schools (in-school programs),seven after school programs and three early childhood programs in Lincoln and Linn counties as a strategy to combat the region’s childhood obesity epidemic.Approximately 4,000 children will be served by the program and their target population is low-income children from 3 to 12 years of age; however, the program is open to all children from 3 to 12 years of age in Lincoln and Linn counties. For more information contact Marilyn Kennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2010 Delta States Grantee -Health Enrichment Network
Health Enrichment Network in Louisiana is piloting Growing Up Fit Together; an obesity prevention program thattargets first, second and third grade students in 23 Louisiana elementaryschools. Growing Up Fit Together works with teachers, students and families to promotehealthy lifestyle skills through seven lessons (modules) taught by a Growing UpFit Together Obesity Prevention Coordinator assigned to that participatingschool. The lessons cover topics such as heart health, oral health, nutritionand exercise. There are three components to the program: (1) Get Moving (2) GetHealthy, and (3) Learning Together.
- 2010 Delta States Grantee -Baptist Health Madisonville
Baptist Health Madisonville in Kentucky is using the evidence-based TAKE10!® model that integrates grade-specific physical activity and nutrition concepts with core academic subjects: language arts, math, social studies and science. The program is part of the Kentucky Delta Rural Project and currently they are implementing TAKE 10!® in 64 elementary schools.
- 2012 Outreach Grantee - Unified School District #498 Marshall County Kansas, project Healthy Early Learning Project (HELP)
The goals of HELP are to promote and strengthen early learning policies and standards that create healthy learning environments for preschools; to create healthy sustainable learning environments that encourages increased physical activity; to create healthy sustainable learning environments that encourages good nutrition habits; and to engage and empower families and communities in the prevention of child hood obesity and the onset of chronic disease. Additional outcomes for the HELP include, the increased percentage or preschool students that engage in 60 minutes of daily physical activity; the increased percentage of preschool students who consume fruits and vegetable; and the increased percentage of students who achieve appropriate Body Mass Index. The preschool sites are using a variety of evidenced based curricula such as SPARK, Early Sprouts, Healthy HOPS and AnimalTrackers. For more information contact Philisha Stallbaumer at email@example.com
IV. Funding Opportunities