Most children in America consume far too much sugar, which can lead to hyperactivity and increase risk factors for disease later in life. But at Sonora Elementary and Sonora Middle School, both kids and staff know that healthy snacks are IN and sugary candy is OUT during afterschool time. What’s behind the change?
In 2016, Afterschool Coordinator Sarah Pruden met Jonathan Wallace, Healthy Out-of-School Time Manager at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who told her about how she could help to make the afterschool environment healthier for the nearly 100 kids in her care. Sarah enrolled both sites in the Initiative and since then, Jonathan has visited the sites every few months to meet with the staff, provide hands-on coaching and connect them with additional resources for healthy living.
In March, National Nutrition Advisor Jill Turley led a professional development workshop that included 12 staff members from Sonora Elementary and Middle Schools, in addition to 20 site staff from a neighboring afterschool facility. Staff learned about the importance of being role models and identified strategies to prioritize healthy eating and maintaining an active lifestyle. “It’s important for all of us to be knowledgeable about health so we can talk to the kids about it. When kids ask: why can’t I have this? We need to have a good answer so kids understand why their health is important ,” said Sarah.
Last year, Sarah remembers staff trying to bring in candy for Valentine’s Day and Easter celebrations. But this year, “no one even asked to bring candy,” she said. The new ‘no candy’ policy will be cemented in the program’s handbook at the start of the next school year.
Both Sonora Elementary and Middle School afterschool programs are part of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program, funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The 21st CCLC program establishes community learning centers that provide enrichment opportunities for children. Students who attend these programs rely on them for quality care, a healthy meal and a safe place to spend time afterschool while their parents work, making it imperative that these afterschool environments also support their health and wellbeing.