Feature Article - February 2009
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Inspiring a Lifetime of Health

Wellness Programming for the Under-18 Crowd

By Dawn Klingensmith

Consistency Is Key

Certain partnerships present challenges, though. In partnering with schools to implement NEAT, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department made a point of looking into whether the public schools' lunch offerings were consistent with what kids were being taught to eat after school. It would be nice to be able to assume so, but considering the federal government once sought to classify ketchup as a fruit-and-vegetable serving, schools perhaps don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

"We do run the risk of undermining what the children are being taught if the schools aren't providing healthy lunches," Wheat said. "It's important to provide consistent messaging."

Yet as far as inconsistencies go, parks and recreation departments might be their own worst enemy. It's all well and good to implement a nutrition policy like Austin's, but if it does not extend to concession stands and vending machines, kids might be getting mixed messages—a problem that is readily acknowledged by Joanna Mesecke, division manager of programs (recreation centers and athletics).

"Currently, the food and nutrition policy addresses only the programs the parks and recreation department directly administers and purchases food for—for example, summer camps, after-school programs, teen programs, etc. It also addresses the vending machines within our recreation centers," she said. "Unfortunately, it hasn't reached out to our concessionaires, specifically youth sports organizations, since they administer the programs at our facilities. We are working on it, however."