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Health-Wellness Camp/After school
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Wellness activities and education in after school and camp programs

After school programs and summer camps are some of the largest programs that park and recreation agencies run. They are also programs where staff are able to develop a long-term relationship with children, which means that they are a wonderful place to teach kids about healthy lifestyles. Below are some small changes you can make to your programs to have a big impact on the health of your participants.

Adding healthy eating

How healthy are the snacks and meals that you provide your after school and camp participants? If you have control over the purchase of food for your agency's program, consider adding produce into your snack rotation. If you do not have space or proper storage space for produce, there are some pre-packaged snack foods that are healthier than others. The healthy snack guidelines and using local produce in agency programming sections of the Wellness Toolkit can help you choose and find healthy food for your program participants.

Adding nutrition education

While we want kids to be active, eating snack is a great time to add a short weekly (or more often!) health lesson. At the Medical University of South Carolina's summer camp, in addition to including a nutrition lesson during snack, they have a weekly theme about healthy lifestyles (water safety, sun protection, on the farm, eating colorful veggies, etc). You could even have a weekly healthy cooking class to teach about nutrition, if you have facilities for it. Look in the resource below for nutrition teaching tools and recipe ideas.

Adding physical activity

The CDC recommendation is that kids get at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. How much time do participants and in your camps or afterschool program spend being active? Create a policy that requires at least half an hour (for after school) or one hour of activity (for full-day summer camp) for every day the program is offered. This can be organized or free play; just make sure kids or being active.

Commit to Health

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has developed healthy eating and physical activity standards for children grades K-12 that are in before-school, after-school, and summer camp program. The initiative is called Commit to Health. There are 19 standards:

Healthy Eating

  • Serve a fruit or vegetable at every snack and meal.
  • Serve only foods with no artificial trans fats.
  • Serve only whole grain-rich products.
  • Serve only non-fat or reduced fat yogurt and cheese.
  • Serve only lean meat, skinless poultry, seafood, beans/legumes or eggs.
  • Serve only packaged snacks or frozen desserts that meet the USDA Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
  • Provide plain potable water at all times at no cost to youth and staff.
  • Serve only plain low-fat milk, plain or flavored nonfat milk or milk alternative limited to 8 fluid ounces per day for elementary school students and 12 fluid ounces per day for middle and high school students.
  • Serve only 100% fruit or vegetable juice with no added sweeteners or 100% juice diluted with water with no added sweeteners.
  • Serve no soda, sports drinks or juice drinks9 to elementary school or middle school students.
  • Serve no full-calorie soda or full-calorie sports drinks, but may serve diet soda, low-calorie sports drinks or other low calorie beverages to high school students.
  • Serve only non-caffeinated beverages.

Physical Activity

  • Dedicate at least 20% or at least 30 minutes of morning or afterschool program time to physical activity and at least 60 minutes for a full day program.
  • Provide physical activities in which youth are moderately to vigorously active for at least 50% of the physical activity time.
  • Ensure physical activity takes place outdoors whenever possible.
  • Do not permit access to television or movies.
  • Limit digital device time to less than one hour per day and digital device use is limited to homework or activities that engage youth in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity.

Youth and Family Education

  • Offer evidence-based nutrition education to youth.
  • Offer evidence-based education materials about nutrition and physical activity to families through pamphlets, newsletters, email blasts or other means.

NRPA's goal is to have 2000 sites to adopt these standards over the next five years. To learn more, check out NRPA’s Commit to Health FAQs and take the participation pledge. Commit to Health uses the Alliance for a Healther Generation's Healthy Out-of-School Time Framework to inventory and track progress toward adoption of these standards.

Next Steps

After you have completed adding wellness activities to your after school and/or camp programs, let us know how it went, so we can add your tips to the toolkit for other agencies. Then, consider one of these ideas:


Nutrition curricula

Other Resources

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