Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating Three Years of Healthy Out-of-School Time

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating Three Years of Healthy Out-of-School Time

Article excerpt

In February 2014, NRPA launched Commit to Health, a campaign devoted to creating healthier out-of-school time (OST) programs in local parks and recreation. This month, we're celebrating three years of successful implementation in communities across the country!

Over the last three years, park and recreation agencies that have joined Commit to Health have worked toward creating a healthier generation of youth through the implementation of the Healthy Eating Physical Activity (HEPA) standards at their OST sites. The HEPA standards are things like ensuring that a fruit or vegetable is served at every meal, making sure that kids in a summer camp program are getting 60 minutes of physical activity, and providing drinking water at all times to youth and staff. Through implementation of these standards, 1,250 park and recreation sites have provided increased access to healthy foods and new opportunities for physical activity for more than 228,000 youth. While the impact numbers alone are impressive, there are many reasons to celebrate this initiative--new partnerships have been created, new resources have been developed and program evaluation shows that knowledge is increasing and behavior change is taking place.

New Partnerships: In parks and recreation, we know how important partnerships are to the success of a program, and Commit to Health has helped to spark numerous partnerships and collaborations across the country. From local agencies working with state health departments, school districts, volunteer groups, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, to national partnerships with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Partnership for a Healthier America, new relationships have flourished. And, these relationships have resulted in increased capacity to create healthier menus, set goals and develop action plans, and implement nutrition education and physical activity programs.

New Resources: Through the Commit to Health initiative, NRPA has had the opportunity to create an abundance of new resources focused on healthy out-of-school time, including a set of family engagement materials and the Foods of the Month nutrition education curriculum. Foods of the Month is an evidence-based curriculum specifically designed for park and recreation OST programs. Each month highlights two healthy food groups and contains a suite of materials, including lesson planning guides, newsletters, coloring and activity pages, USDA and MyPlate resources and physical activity lessons. This year, NRPA will be expanding the FOM curriculum to include a set of Community and Home Gardening resources. These resources will provide guidance on projects to help park and recreation agencies and families continue to make healthy living changes.

Evaluation Results: Since the inception of Commit to Health, NRPA has been committed to conducting a thorough evaluation of the initiative to determine knowledge gains, behavior change and verification of the standards being met. Our evaluation data shows that children, staff and parents have experienced increases in knowledge of healthy eating and physical activity, resulting in positive behavior changes. We know that children involved in park and recreation programs that have implemented the HEPA standards are eating better and moving more. …

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