One after-school has proven that kids can love eating healthy afternoon snacks.
By Jamila Stroman, Program Director, Florida International After-School All-Stars
Some people are initially skeptical when I tell them that middle school students attending the Florida International After-School All-Stars program love eating watermelon, feta and mint salad as their afternoon snack. But they shouldn’t be surprised. By making kids part of the preparation process and educating them about the benefits of healthy eating, we’ve found that kids are actually very willing to try new, healthy foods.
Healthier snacks are just one of the changes we’ve made since we began working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative last year. Julia Onnie-Hay, Healthy Out-of-School Time Manager in Miami, has been a huge support, providing resources and guidance to align our afterschool programming with healthy best practices for students.
We’re fortunate to be affiliated with the Miami-Dade County Public School District, which has a strong commitment to student wellness and has been working with Healthier Generation since 2006. We’ve formed a partnership with the district to share facilities such as playgrounds and food service in an effort to guarantee that the 1,800 students in our care receive a consistent message about the importance of health during school and afterschool time.
This past year, we decided to take our commitment to health and our partnership with the district one step further by developing a wellness policy. Julia led our staff through a series of workshops that helped us identify our wellness goals and translate them into a written policy. We referenced the Miami-Dade County Public School District’s wellness policy to ensure that whenever possible, we were reinforcing the policies and practices kids follow at school.
Julia also shared with us the Healthy Out-of-School Time Model Wellness Policy, which we used as a template to align our policy with national standards. Having support from both Healthier Generation and the district helped us streamline the process, and we were able to create our wellness policy in just two weeks.
Since then, I’ve been meeting with stakeholders in the district and broader community to collect feedback and strengthen our policy. Once we finalize the policy, I plan to share it with our incoming class of students, staff and parents to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the health of our kids. I’m proud that the Florida International After-School All-Stars are setting an example of how afterschool programs can put kids’ health first.