Feature Article - November 2013
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Marketing Movement & Exercise

YMCAs, Schools Help Spur Youth to Exercise, Eat Healthier

By Deborah L. Vence


"What that is, is taking advantage of every opportunity there is to promote physical activity. Physical activity is the core. All the other things are opportunities to further develop those skills—physical activity before and after school, physical activity breaks. There is also staff involvement, being good role models, community engagement," Richardson said.

"So, for example, if my students in PE are doing a golf unit, maybe if they want more lessons, they can have more. That's how we've been working with the world of recreation," she said.

Also, she said, you can call on sports instruction experts, too. For instance, if tennis is not your area of expertise, you can have someone from a local tennis club come in and teach kids basic skills.

The five components of a CSPAP are:

  • Physical education
  • Physical activity during school
  • Physical activity before and after school
  • Staff involvement
  • Family and community involvement

And, the goal of a CSPAP is two-fold:

  • To provide a variety of school-based physical activity opportunities that enable all students to participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.
  • To provide coordination among the CSPAP components to maximize understanding, application and practice of the knowledge and skills learned in physical education so that all students will be fully physically educated and well-equipped for a lifetime of physical activity.

Fun at the YMCA

Another way wellness programs are promoted and encouraged is through the YMCA, a nonprofit organization rooted in 10,000 communities across the United States.

Because of the YMCA, children across the country have access to healthy meals through the YMCA's Summer Food Program. The YMCA's Summer Food Program is part of a national partnership between the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and the Walmart Foundation to address child hunger.

Research has shown that more than 30 million children in low-income communities receive free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, but only 2.3 million are able to continue to get free meals during the summer. Now, because of a $5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, YMCAs across the country will be able to better tackle this issue. With more than 900 summer food program sites nationwide, the goal of the Y over the summer this year was to serve 4 million healthy meals and snacks to 100,000 children.

The Summer Food program also has been extended to the school year, where the Y will serve healthy meals and snacks at more than 1,400 sites in its afterschool program to provide children with nourishment and academic enrichment.

In addition, the program provides learning enrichment activities and physical activity to keep children's minds and bodies active, while also serving healthy meals and snacks. On a national level, the Y's goal is to serve 3.5 million meals and snacks throughout the 2013-14 school year.

"[We have] over 1,400 after-school meal sites," said Valerie Lawson, Y-USA's manager of program development for healthy living.

To learn more about the YMCA's Summer Food Program or find a participating location in your community, visit ymca.net/summerfood.

"This impacts wellness … all the way through programming for adults," she said.

Additionally, with the Y's healthy living program, the focus is on wellness programs for children ages 5 through 12 and their families. The idea is to bring children and their families together to teach them about healthy eating.

Because of the YMCA, children across the country have access to healthy meals through the YMCA's Summer Food Program.

"It was developed with the five pillars in mind, [that include] eat healthy, sleep well, going outside, [play every day]," she said, adding that there also are more than 5,000 subscribers who receive a monthly YMCA newsletter, which offers tips and tools on eating healthier.

And, with those tips, families are showing that they are improving their eating habits.

For example, she noted that one family reported that they began adding fruit to everyday meals, including dinner, which ended up being two additional servings a day of fruit for the family.