As many schools are implementing the Smarter Lunchrooms initiative and nudging students toward healthier choices, take a minute to think about what is happening in the rest of the school environment. Are students actively engaged in physical activity throughout the school day? Are school employees modeling good behavior? Has the school put limits on birthday celebrations and using food as a reward?
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, works to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits. The Alliance works with schools, companies, community organizations, healthcare professionals and families to transform the conditions and systems that lead to healthier children.
Children spend the majority of their time outside of the home at school; the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program aims to improve the school environment in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and staff wellness. Participation in the Healthy Schools Program promotes and builds healthier schools, by reinforcing district wellness policies and including technical assistance, onsite customized support, and science-based tools and resources at no cost. More than 18,000 schools across the country are now participating in the Healthy Schools Program.
The Healthy Schools Program helps schools meet new and existing requirements. For example, the new U. S. Department of Agriculture Smart Snacks policy on foods and beverages sold outside the school meal program—such as in vending machines, a la carte lines, and snack carts—will require implementation by the 2014-15 school year. The Alliance has been working with schools for seven years to implement similar guidelines and can expertly guide others through the process.
The Alliance recognizes that many children spend considerable amounts of time in before and afterschool programs, summer camps, and community centers so the Healthy-Out-of-School-Time Framework was developed to assist those providers in creating healthier environments with best practice resources and standards.
Working with business and industry is also an integral part of creating a healthy environment. With that in mind, the Alliance has engaged many companies to systematically improve access to healthier foods, beverages, and physical activities for children and their families. The resulting voluntary agreements with beverage, snack foods, dairy, fitness, and healthcare companies pave the way for successfully changing what is offered and marketed to children.
For example, the agreement between the Alliance and the beverage industry resulted in a 90 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to participating schools from 2004-2010. In addition, because change is never easy, the Alliance enlists and provides incentives for doctors, insurers, and employers to join the movement and to provide obesity-prevention services. Now, there are 2.7 million children across the nation accessing the Alliance’s Healthier Generation Benefit.