It is important for ASES grantees to engage children by providing nutrition education and improving the programs environment so that it supports better nutrition and physical activity. Nutrition education can be an important part of the school day, but it is being squeezed out of the curriculum in many schools because of greater emphasis on core academic subjects.
After school and summer programs provide a vital opportunity to offer nutrition education, which has been squeezed out of the curriculum in many schools because of greater emphasis on core academic subjects. It is relatively easy for an after school program to add nutrition education to its activities. After school staff can use one of the numerous nutrition education curricula or can draw on local nutrition education resources, such as chefs, public health and nutrition students at local universities and colleges, local and state public health departments, and cooperative extension offices.
Similarly, ASES grantees need to take steps to improve the environment of their programs to encourage healthy choices and physical activity. California schools have moved in this direction by limiting childrens access to unhealthy foods and developing School Wellness Policies. All school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program are required to develop a School Wellness Policy that sets goals for nutrition standards for food available in schools, nutrition education, physical activity and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. FRACs guide to School Wellness Policies provides additional information on how after school programs can be included in School Wellness Policies.
In many ways, California is leading the nation in developing strategies to combat childhood obesity. Several California-based resources to improve children's health and well-being would be useful for ASES grantees.