Coalition recommends first-ever nutrition and exercise standards for after school programs

August 10, 2011

Cityroom and AP Wires

(Flickr/Phalinn Ooi)
A coalition recommends increased physical activity and healthier snacks for daycamps and after school programs.

A coalition of groups, including the Chicago-based national YMCA, has issued the first-ever comprehensive national nutritonal and physical activity guidelines for camps and after school programs. 

The standards were issued Tuesday by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition and coordinated by the YMCA, the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

They include a common sense-approach including serving fruits and vegetables instead of more sugary, fatty treats; and offering water rather than juices or soda.  Half-day programs should offer at least half an hour of physical activity; full-day programs should offer at least an hour.

“Energy balance and appropriate physical activity are critical to good health and preventing childhood obesity, which is reaching record numbers in this country,” says project co-leader Ellen S. Gannett, director of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time. “If out-of-school programs can influence smart choices for children when they’re away from home and out of the classroom, they will be an important component in the campaign to fight childhood obesity.”

The new standards have already been adopted by the National Afterschool Association (NAA), and local YMCA's will begin the process of adopting the standards this year.

According to the coalition, more than eight million children nationwide participate in out-of-school programs for at least three hours a day.