First-Ever National Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards Developed for Afterschool Programs

Comprehensive guidelines from the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition help ensure healthier snacks and more active playtime for 8 million children in out-of-school programs

CHICAGO, August 9, 2011 – Today, the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST), comprised of leaders in out-of-school time care and health promotion, brought together by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) and YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), announce the first-ever comprehensive national nutrition and physical activity standards for out-of-school programs for children in grades K-12.  The new guidelines are the latest tool in the fight against childhood obesity and a step in promoting healthy options for the more than 8 million children that participate in out-of-school programs at least three hours a day, according to statistics from the HOST Coalition. 

The new standards are the result of a comprehensive research project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Over the course of a year, HOST conducted a national online survey of more than 700 out-of-school programs across the country, and examined best practices and existing standards and guidelines for providing healthy eating and physical activity opportunities. The survey included participation from many local Ys, one of the nation’s largest providers of afterschool programs. 

“Energy balance and appropriate physical activity are critical to good health and preventing childhood obesity, which is reaching record numbers in this country. Out-of-school programs provide opportunities for children to not only consume nutritious snacks but also to learn real-life strategies for evaluating food options and making healthy choices,” says project co-leader Ellen S. Gannett, director of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time.  “If out-of-school programs can influence smart choices for children when they’re away from home and out of the classroom, they will be an important component in the campaign to fight childhood obesity.”

Among the recommended standards outlined for out-of-school programs – which include before and after school programs, day camps, and overnight camps are:

  • Serving fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned) as options instead of cake, cookies, candy and chips 
  • Offering water as the preferred drink option during snack times instead of juices, punch boxes or soda
  • Dedicating at least 20 percent or at least 30 minutes of morning or afterschool program time to physical activity (60 minutes for a full day program)
  • Ensuring that daily physical activity time includes aerobic and age-appropriate muscle and bone strengthening and cardio-respiratory fitness activities

In addition, the new standards elevate the importance of training out-of-school program staff on the role of healthy eating, physical activity and social supports for healthy behavior.

“The Y is proud to be part of this work to ensure that any time a child spends at a Y, and particularly time spent in afterschool programming, is structured to shape healthy habits for a lifetime,” explains Barbara Roth, national director of youth and family programs at Y-USA and senior advisor in the development of these standards. “As a leading nonprofit in strengthening communities through healthy living, the Y’s out-of-school programs provide a safe and nurturing environment to nearly 2 million children each year, with many of these children spending more time at their local Ys than in school throughout the year, making the significance of these standards even greater,” says Roth. 

The new standards have already been adopted by the National Afterschool Association (NAA), the nation’s afterschool membership organization. With the NAA on board, this will begin the next phase of the process, educating all out-of-school providers about the standards and encouraging implementation. The HOST Coalition hopes that out-of-school programs will then begin conducting a self-assessment to see how they stack-up when compared to the standards and then begin to implement change.  Local Ys around the country will begin evaluating their out-of-school programming and begin the process of adopting the standards this year.

“Healthy eating and physical activity can help kids avoid obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, but kids need healthy environments with committed role models to make these habits stick,” says Jean Wiecha, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Department of Exercise & Health Sciences and another of the project co-leaders.  “It's important for the adults in their lives to steer children toward good choices at home, before and after school,” comments Wiecha.

For additional information on the HOST Coalition please visit: www.niost.org/Standards-and-Guidelines 

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About The Healthy Out of School Time Coalition:
In January 2009, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, together with Jean Wiecha from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) and the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), collaborated to found the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST). The vision for this national coalition of leaders in the OST field is to foster health and well-being practices in afterschool programs nationwide, using science-based standards for healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and social supports for these behaviors including staff, family and child engagement.

About YMCA of the USA
YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the Y, one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net

About NIOST at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College
For over 30 years, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College has successfully brought national attention to the importance of children and youth’s out-of-school time, influenced policy, increased standards and professional recognition, and spearheaded community action aimed at improving the availability, quality, and sustainability of programs serving children and youth.  NIOST’s varied initiatives have moved the field of afterschool forward using our capacity for research, education, training, consultation, and system-building.  We have developed interactive and collaborative approaches to creating new and effective solutions to out-of-school time needs on an individual, local, state, regional, and national level.  For more information go to www.niost.org.

About University of Massachusetts, Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s eight colleges and graduate schools serve more than 15,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measureable and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

Contact:
Mamie Moore
YMCA of the USA
312-419-8325
mamie.moore@ymca.net

Tuesday, August 9, 20111

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.