When Schools and Out-of-School Time Programs Come Together on Wellness, Kids Win

Research shows that good nutrition and physical activity help kids learn and grow. Over the past decade, schools have made significant progress in serving healthier meals, snacks and beverages and increasing physical education and activity practices thanks, in part, to strong national wellness policy and nutrition guidelines. That’s great news for families, but many parents work late into the evening and rely on afterschool programs to care for their children when school lets out.

In Miami-Dade County, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative is helping to connect schools with afterschool sites by aligning their wellness policies to create consistent, healthy environments for kids.

In March, wellness team leaders from each of the 10 non-profit organizations that administer the 33 afterschool program sites in Miami-Dade County participated in Wellness Policies 101, a training delivered by Healthy Out-of-School Time Manager Julia Onnie-Hay. During the training, organization staff reviewed a copy of Miami-Dade County Public School District’s wellness policy, then received individualized coaching to adopt their own policy that aligned with the healthy messages kids receive during the school day.

“Having schools and afterschool sites coordinate on wellness policies demonstrates to the student that adults and their peers are all on the same page and working towards the same healthy goal,” said, Sharon Dziezdic-Blanco of the City of Hialeah’s Young Leaders with Character Program, who attended the training. “We are the students’ community so it’s always best if we all work together.”

Since attending the training, the City of Hialeah’s Young Leaders with Character Program has taken several steps to align with the school district’s wellness efforts. For instance, program staff ensure that they provide nutritious (and tasty) snacks and meals that comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition standards, and youth are encouraged to participate in at least 30-45 minutes of vigorous physical activity, five days a week. Staff are also making healthy lifestyle changes, including more nutritious snack choices to set a healthy example for the kids in their care.

“The best advice I can give is to partner with an organization like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation,” said Sharon. “The Alliance has many resources and Julia really helped us narrow down the type of policy we would like to have our organization put in place.”