About Health, Wellness and Nutrition
With a growing number of school hours devoted to increased instructional time and physical education programs being scaled back in many schools, the afterschool hours are becoming increasingly crucial to ensuring the healthy development of our nation's youth. Additionally, with students spending the majority of their waking hours and consuming the majority of their meals during out-of-school time, afterschool and summer learning programs present a unique opportunity to promote healthful eating and living habits.
- The childhood obesity crisis continues to worsen in the U.S. with an estimated one in six children (16 percent) from ages 10 to 17 considered to be obese.
- Type two diabetes is now becoming more common among adolescents, especially in minority communities.
- Overweight children are more likely to be the target of taunting and teasing in school, a serious risk to mental health, leading to lower self-confidence and a higher risk of depression.
- Physical education is often a luxury that many schools cannot afford and recess has been reduced or eliminated in schools across the country in favor of more classroom time.
- Research shows that time spent engaged in outdoor activities correlates with increased fitness in children, yet children have turned to television, computer and video games more often than outdoor recreation to occupy their down time.
Afterschool and expanded learning programs can be particularly valuable resources to health because they:
- Serve children most at risk for being overweight, including minorities and those from lower socio-economic status families.
- Occur during a time of the day that many children would otherwise be sedentary and not likely to participate in physical activity.
- Provide meals and snacks that can serve as nutritious examples.
- Provide staff who understand children's needs and can promote healthy eating and active lifestyles.
- Provide an opportunity for young people to interact with role models displaying healthy eating habits and leading healthy lifestyles.
Strategies to Support Health, Wellness and Nutrition
- Approach program development in nutrition and physical activity with vision, purpose and intentionality.
- Integrate nutrition and physical activity approaches with youth development principles.
- Provide exciting and meaningful learning experiences that integrate nutrition and physical activity into core activities and approaches.
- Work closely with community members, families and schools to become full partners in strengthening students’ health and well-being.
Create outreach and education systems that increase awareness about ways to strengthen food security for the low-income families of participating students.