Create Healthier Schools with AFHK Grants for Healthy Kids

I am a long time fan of and volunteer for Action for Healthy Kids, which is currently welcoming schools to apply for 2014-2015 School Grants for Healthy Kids. The grants will range from $500 to $5,000 and are designed to help schools create or expand school breakfast programs, pilot universal breakfast programs or enhance their physical activity programs.

In addition to financial support, through funding from its sponsors, AFHK will provide the roughly 1,000 chosen schools with significant in-kind contributions in the form of programs, school breakfast and physical activity expertise and support to engage volunteers. The organization also will provide schools management expertise and support to develop strong alternative and universal breakfast or physical activity programs. Bottom line: Your school will get monies, support and technical assistance – a winning combo!

School Grants for Healthy Kids proven to improve school health environments

Past School Grants for Healthy Kids recipients have great stories to tell. For example: Trimble County Middle School in Bedford, Ky., reports a steady increase in their Universal Breakfast program participation and overall sick complaints/nurse visits down school-wide. Trimble County has also received compliments from the student body and notes that the breakfast program has helped ease a financial burden for families.

Universal Breakfast is a great program. I see the number of students that come through my serving line that are hungry and are not getting healthy meals at home. This is a great way to show that someone does care,” said Jackie Goode, Trimble County Middle School cafeteria manager.

A grant from School Grants for Healthy Kids can do the same for your school.

Grants will be available in select states. Award amounts will be based on building enrollment, project type, potential impact, and a school’s ability to mobilize parents and students around school wellness initiatives. Applications must be filed by May 2, 2014. The deadline will not be extended.

Learn more: If you’re interested for your school, attend an hour-long introductory webinar Thursday, March 20, 2014  at 3 p.m. ET, 2 p.m. CT, 1 p.m. MT and noon PT to get tips for applying. You can register.

Archived sessions also will be available. Once you have all the information you need, start the application process and apply before the May 2, 2014 deadline.

Trimble County Promote School Breakfast

Trimble County Promote School Breakfast

Eat, Play, Learn: Y is for YAY!

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

Y is for YAY! 

I admit that I was struggling with what to use for Y – and then my latest blog for the Huffington Post was published today on the Parents page: 6 Secrets Every Parent (and School) Should Know About Academic Success, by Dayle Hayes, MS, RD. Hope you will take time to read it online – or below!

You would do anything to insure your children’s academic success, right? Helping with homework, meeting with teachers, arranging for tutors — whatever it takes to give them that little extra boost. You also care about your kids’ health — and want them to eat right and get enough physical activity to stay healthy.

What you may not know is how closely connected academic success is to what kids eat and how active they are. Experts in both education and health are beginning to realize that more attention to children’s bodies will also help their brains work better. Whether you call it the Learning Connection or the Wellness Impact, the message to parents and schools is clear: Eating smarter and moving more are essential for optimal performance and behavior in the classroom. Here are six ways you and your school district can work together to help all students succeed.

1. Start with Breakfast, Every Day

We all know that mornings can be crazy busy and some kids just aren’t hungry before school. But, this is a no brainer — literally! Without fuel for morning classes, students cannot focus, concentrate and learn. At home or school (or even in a car or bus), breakfast changes everything. Any breakfast is better than no breakfast and a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk and fruit can actually be a good source of key nutrients. Even if your kids eat at home in the morning, your support for school breakfast is critical for those children who need it. One kid who is too hungry to learn can disrupt an entire classroom. On the other hand, breakfast in the classroom, like this one in Reynoldsburg (OH), helps students fuel up for learning.

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2. Safe Routes to School

Some of the hottest research on activity and brain function comes out of Dr. Charles Hillman’s lab at the University of Illinois. Brain imaging and other tests show that a simple 20-minute walk can improve a student’s performance in both reading and math. Takeaway for caring parents? Walking (or biking) to school means your kids arrive with brains that are ready to learn. Concerned about their safety? Get your workout by walking or biking with them — or get involved in a Safe Routes to School group. For example, our community is having a Walk-Bike Summit in March.

3. Active Recess Before Lunch

Physical activity at recess is good for kids brains (and their bodies) for the exactly the same reasons as walking or biking to school. However, recess before lunch has been shown to have some other very important benefits. When children are active before coming to the cafeteria, they eat better and behave better. Studies show that they actually eat more entrée, vegetables and fruits — and drink more milk. When kids rush through lunch so they can run out to play, lots of food goes into the garbage can and students are short-changed on afternoon fuel. Breakfast helps children learn in the morning, but lunch is just as necessary for afternoon classes.

4. Comfortable Cafeterias

As just noted, there is a critical academic reason to be concerned about those half-eaten lunches that your children bring home — and the full garbage cans in some school cafeterias. Sadly, many cafeterias are not pleasant, positive places to enjoy a meal. The good news is that they can be. All they need is a bit of bright décor and adults who are trained to encourage appropriate conversations rather than just patrolling between the tables and telling everyone to hurry up and eat. Parents can help create Comfortable Cafeterias by eating with their children and making positive, pleasant mealtimes part of a local wellness policy.

5. Classroom Energizers

Remember that brain research about the benefits of a 20-minute walk? Short bouts of aerobic activity in the classroom can also work wonders. A short activity break re-energizers young brains and their bodies too. Research shows that a brain break can be especially valuable when transitioning from one topic to another. Free online programs like Jammin’ Minute and Move to Learn can bring fun videos and activity tips into any classroom. Check with your children’s teachers to see if they are taking advantage of this effective and educational technique. Teachers are finding that the few minutes spent on activity actually add minutes of instructional time and putting a smarter student in the chair.

6. Smart After-School Snacks

Since children are all-day learners, they need regular refueling throughout the day, including after-school snacks — for sports, homework and academic enrichment programs. Many snack foods (candy, chips, soft drinks, etc.) do not offer the lasting power that kids need. USDA’s Smart Snacks in Schools regulations are coming to school-day sales this fall — and it is important that students have access to the same nutrient-rich foods after the school day ends. Fruits and veggies are always good, but protein power is even more important. Yogurt, string cheese, nuts, nut butters, sliced deli meats, beef jerky, hard cooked eggs and hummus can all be incorporated into at home or on-the-go smart snack routines. Programs like Fuel Up to Play 60 can engage students as leaders, like these middle schoolers in Naches (WA), in making changes in what their school offers for meals, snacks and physical activity.

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Next time you review a report card or discuss your child’s performance at school, be sure that nutrition and fitness are part of the conversation. Using the Learning Connection to your advantage can make a significant impact on their school success.

Eat. Play. Learn. W is for WELLNESS Policies

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

W is for WELLNESS Policies

School WELLNESS was the hot topic today at the White House. According to the USDA press release:

“Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joins U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce proposed guidelines for local school wellness policies. The bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies in areas such as setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about content of the policy and implementation, and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates as appropriate.”

I’ve been a fan of strong, effective Local Wellness Policies since they were first required in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2004. The changes mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 have the real potential to strengthen wellness environments in schools. However, they have to be implemented – rather than just sitting on the shelf in someone’s office. The key is a strong, effective wellness committee – administrators, teachers, nutrition staff, parents and students – working together.

Need a model wellness policy? I highly recommend the South Dakota Model Wellness Policy, developed by a coalition of South Dakota school and health professionals – and approved by their State Board of Education in September 2012. It meets all the requirements – and provides links to many resources. 

South Dakota School Wellness Model Policy

South Dakota School Wellness Model Policy

Eat. Play. Learn. R is for RECESS

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

R is for RECESS (Before Lunch) 

Physical activity at RECESS is good for kids brains (and their bodies) for the same reasons as walking/biking to school and PE classes are. According to the 2012  American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on The Crucial Role of Recess in School:

“… safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”

RECESS before lunch has been shown to have some additional very important benefits. When children are active before coming to the cafeteria, they eat better and behave better. Studies show that they actually eat more entrée, vegetables and fruits – and drink more milk. When kids rush through lunch so they can run out to play, lots of food goes into the garbage can and students are short-changed on afternoon fuel. Breakfast helps children learn in the morning, but lunch is just as necessary for afternoon classes.

I’m proud to say that Montana Team Nutrition has been real leader in RECESS Before Lunch, publishing both A Guide to Success and research: Scheduling Recess Before Lunch: Exploring the Benefits and Challenges in Montana Schools.

Montana Team Nutrition Recess Before Lunch (RBL) Guide

Montana Team Nutrition Recess Before Lunch (RBL) Guide

Eat. Play. Learn. P is for PLAY

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

P is for PLAY

I could hardly wait to get to P is for PLAY. I love the powerful simplicity of this graphic from Plan Australia, whose tagline is Every Child Has the Right to PLAY! As this clearly shows, having active fun is much more than mere child’s PLAY. Experts in child health, education, development and many other fields agree – PLAY is good for the body, mind and soul. The American Academy of Pediatrics – the MDs who care for children – actually have an official position on the topic: The Importance of PLAY in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.

Turns out that young bodies, mind and souls can benefit from different kinds of PLAYactive PLAY, free PLAY and outdoor PLAY to name a few. I am an especially big fan of getting kids outside to run, jump, explore, discover and PLAY. The National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There website is a terrific resource for research, tips and programs to get children outside. Basically, we need to get children and adults of all ages unplugged from screens and into PLAY together – anytime, anywhere we can.

Graphic Courtesy of the Plan Australia (www.facebook.com/planaustralia)

Graphic Courtesy of the Plan Australia (www.facebook.com/planaustralia)

Eat. Play. Learn. J is for JAM

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

J is for JAM (Just a Minute)

How long does it take to wake up a child’s body and brain? According to the physical activity experts at the free JAM program, just a minute makes difference. The JAM School Program brings physical activity and health education into the classroom, teaching kids (and adults) healthier lifestyle habits. JAM offers a weekly one-minute activity routine called JAMmin’ Minute®, a more extensive routine called JAM Blast®, and a monthly health newsletter called Health-E-tips. Why does JAM work for schools?

  • It is fun and free!
  • Whole class does the same thing creating a sense of community and belonging.
  • The JAM routines help improve strength, conditioning and coordination.
  • Brain breaks enhances ability to focus, concentrate and learn.
  • Easily adds more physical activity minutes to the school day.

Sign up and give it a try to day – in your class or in a meeting. JAMmin’ is good for children and adults alike.

Classroom JAMmin'

Classroom JAMmin’ Minute

Eat. Play. Learn. F is for FUEL Up

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

F is for FUEL Up

I’ve been a serious fan of FUEL Up to Play 60 since its 2007 kickoff. I’ve seen the frontline benefits in my hometown (Billings, Montana) and in many states across the USA. I wrote the SNA toolkit: Make Fuel Up to Play 60 Work For Your School Nutrition Program and know for certain that the program can enhance school environments, nutrition programs and academic achievement.

In my playbook, FUEL Up to Play 60 scores a touchdown because, at the school level, all plays are planned and implemented by students themselves! If we want to raise a healthier generation of Americans, it is today’s youth who need to make a commitment to wellness in their own lives. FUEL Up to Play 60 grants and resources support and inspire young folks to make the program’s tagline a reality. Here are three examples of how student leaders are making health happen in their schools.

  • EAT HEALTHY. The FUEL Up to Play 60 Willow Creek team (pictured below) served yogurt parfaits and whole-wheat breakfast burritos made with turkey sausage during a National School Breakfast week celebration.
  • GET ACTIVE. The creativity of FUEL Up to Play 60 teams really shines when it comes to fitness fun – and the added minutes of physical activity have helped kids get fit and schools meet the criteria for USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.
  • MAKE A DIFFERENCEFUEL Up to Play 60 helps motivate me to stay in the school wellness game. When kids make presentations to school boards, start grab-n-go breakfast carts or plant school gardens, I believe that real change is possible.

Want more details FUEL Up to Play 60 plays or help in bringing the program to your school? Contact your state/regional dairy council and check the FUEL Up to Play 60 website.

Willowcreek Middle School, Lehi, Nevada, Goes BIG with FUTP60!

Willowcreek Middle School, Lehi, Utah, Goes BIG with FUTP60!