The summer months mean more time spent outside for many kids, but that activity level often isn’t sustained throughout the school year. Afterschool programs are one way to help address this issue and improve childhood health. For kids who participate, these programs can help increase their physical activity levels and access to healthy foods. This is an important part of preventing chronic diseases later in life.
The Afterschool Alliance published a report this year titled, Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. A sample of parents nationwide were asked what they expect afterschool programs to provide for their kids. Of these parents, 71 percent believe that healthy foods should be included, and 80 percent believe that there should be a focus on physical activity. The majority of parents whose kids participate in an afterschool program reported that they are satisfied with the healthy foods and physical activity options available. This means that many afterschool programs across the country are already addressing these two major factors in childhood health. If we can help more families in Montana access these programs, we could make a positive impact on childhood health in our state.
The report from the Afterschool Alliance also discovered a lack of knowledge among parents about afterschool program standards for healthy foods and physical activity. The Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition put together Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards for programs to follow. These standards are designed to improve out-of-school time programming to better address childhood health and wellness. For example, the HEPA standard for physical activity aims to help kids reach the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation for 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Increased awareness of these standards could help encourage afterschool program providers to continue striving to meet them.