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How Philadelphia is Shaping Out-of-School Time

In many communities, out-of-school time settings may be one of the only places kids have access to nutritious foods and physical activity. The Wilson Park Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia is making sure, whether or not that is the case, that they are creating an environment where kids can eat healthier and move more.

But that wasn’t always the case.

A year ago, Wilson Park was filled with sugary drinks and snacks. Today, thanks to the hard work of their staff and their diligent efforts within our Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative, Wilson Park is an outstanding example of what healthy out-of-school time looks like and was the recipient of the first Healthy Out-of-School Time Hero Award at our 2014 Leaders Summit.

Empowering Youth to Create and Sustain Change

The staff at Wilson Park know that in order to create and sustain healthy changes at their site, they need to involve young people. So they developed hands-on activities showing the amount of sugar found in kids’ favorite junk foods as eye-opening motivators for the youth. The result might come as a surprise to some adults: kids’ desire to see healthier alternatives! Soda soon turned into bottled water and ice-cream turned into more nutritious fruit pops. The staff even found ways to make holiday celebrations healthier: staff substituted traditional Halloween candy for vegetable skeletons, tangerine jack-o-lanterns, and banana ghosts.

In addition to offering healthier foods, staff introduced a variety of physical activities like balloon pop races, sack races, Zumba, yoga, high intensity work outs, relay races, and dancing to get kids on their feet and away from the television.

The changes Wilson Park made to create a healthier environment for their kids weren’t limited to their site. Staff engaged members of the community in their wellness efforts to ensure that the healthy messages they were teaching onsite also made their way back home. Staff did this by sharing nutrition education resources, wellness tips, and information with families to support healthy changes in the home as well.

3 Tips to Create a Healthier Out-of-School Time Setting

In the span of just one year, Wilson Park made major changes to create a healthier environment for their kids. Your out-of-school time setting can do the same!  Executive Program Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, Libby Lescalleet, has three tips to start today.

1.    Be Willing to Try New Things
When it comes to finding the healthy alternatives or engaging physical activities your kids are interested in, experiment. What you’re doing today, doesn’t have to be what you do tomorrow.

2.    Create Support in All Areas of the Program
Work closely with parents and community members to establish the importance of this process and the long term impact it will have on youth.

3.    Be a Role Model
Our kids are watching every choice we make. Share and teach them about new, healthy foods and different types of fitness activities by first adopting a lifestyle that incorporates these healthy foods and activities yourself.

Through our partnership with the Alliance Staff in our community, we were able to create excitement for sharing healthy lifestyle choices with our members. In addition, we were able to offer training and support for our Clubs so they were able to reach their goals for the year.  And the best part was that the Alliance staff came to celebrate those milestones with us!

-    Libby Lescalleet, Executive Program Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia

Learn more about the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative.

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