By Daniel W. Hatcher, MPH, director of Community Partnerships at Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
The 2017 America’s #HealthiestSchools campaign is grounded in the shared belief that every child deserves a healthy school. Afterschool leaders are essential partners for healthy schools.
America After 3 PM tells us that 73 percent of families report that their child’s afterschool program is located in a public school building. That is some serious overlap! As afterschool programs across the country prepare to celebrate Lights On Afterschool, this is the perfect time for school and afterschool to collaborate.
Thousands of afterschool sites implement the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity and thousands of schools across the country implement the School Health Index (SHI). In fact, the SHI is the tool we use to recognize America’s Healthiest Schools. Did you know that the SHI includes guidance for extended school day? As you recruit partners for Lights On, attend your next school wellness council meeting; ask for speaking time on the agenda to explore how you can integrate afterschool goals with existing healthy schools efforts.
Fuel your inner fire
As I wrote in Apples and ACEs: Why Everyone Should Care about School Breakfast, “it doesn’t matter what time of day you’re focused on – before school, in school, or afterschool – breakfast is an important part of any child’s day.” After all, both school breakfast and afterschool programs have been shown to improve school attendance.
Connect with your school food service director or school counselor. Invite them to join in your Lights On event planning and develop strategies for how you can better link school breakfast efforts with your dedication to afterschool and summer meals. If you’re serving food at your Lights On event, make sure they’re Smart Snacks.
Find solutions together
The National Recreation and Park Association was recently recognized as one of NAA’s Most Influential in Health and Wellness. Did you know that 54 percent of recreation agencies collaborate with local school districts? Consider coordinating activities around subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), nature, and citizen science to connect afterschool, recreation, and schools. The new resource, STEM and Wellness: A Powerful Equation for Equity, includes talking points and program models to explore.
To learn more and sign the America’s #HealthiestSchools pledge, visit HealthiestSchools.org.