About the Issue
More than 10 million children – from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, in all grades, and in urban and rural settings – benefit from out-of-school time programs. These programs – including before-school care, after-school care, weekend programs, and summer camps – provide kids with a safe and supervised environment, and have become valuable partners in improving kids’ health and wellness.
Despite the benefits these programs already provide, parents and out-of-school time providers believe there is an opportunity to improve physical activity and nutritional offerings. As of spring 2017, no state required that out-of-school time programs meet the national standards for healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) adopted by the National After School Association. Considering how many children currently utilize these programs, and that 19 million more students would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them, every state should provide grant resources and technical assistance to out-of-school time providers to help them meet these standards in order to support the health and wellness of our children.
Every kid deserves healthy food and the opportunity to be physically active when school is out of session, no matter where they live – and achieving these national standards for out-of-school time programs is something we can all support.
We need to work together to ensure programs can serve more fruits, vegetables, and water instead of drinks with added sugars, like sports drinks, fruit drinks, and soda. Kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether it is in free or structured active play, and options for this active time should be inclusive of children with different sets of abilities. National standards also state that time on digital devices should be limited to less than one hour per day, and that time should be used for homework or games rather than television or movies.
Throughout this toolkit, you will find helpful information for building out your own advocacy efforts aimed at effectively integrating the HEPA standards for out-of-school time programs in your own community, as well as encouraging your state to pursue public policy changes to provide resources for out-of-school time programs. It includes steps on building a campaign, resources and sample content, and stories of success in other communities. Together, by encouraging policymakers to support healthy eating and physical activity habits for our kids, we can make our children healthier and happier, and increase their academic success – no matter where they live or what out-of-school time program they attend. Together, we can keep our kids on a healthy path.