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Afterschool Program Creates Consistent, Healthy Environment for Arkansas Kids

Learn about this healthy out-of-school time success, and see how you can implement something similar in your neighborhood!


kidsoutside.jpgResearch shows that good nutrition and physical activity help kids learn and grow. Over the past decade, schools have made significant progress in serving healthier meals, snacks and beverages and increasing physical education and activity practices thanks, in part, to strong national wellness policy and nutrition guidelines. That’s great news for kids’ health, but many parents work late into the evening and rely on afterschool programs to care for their children when school lets out.

Pam Smith, program leader for athletics at the North Little Rock Department of Parks and Recreation, is part of the growing movement to extend the healthy lessons kids learn at school to their afterschool environments. “Kids get the knowledge in school, we reinforce it here at our sites, and then they can take it home,” said Pam. “We keep that health component and provide that education.”

North Little Rock Parks and Rec is comprised of four afterschool sites that care for about 250 students from 2:45p.m. until 5:30p.m., Monday through Friday. “We piggyback off of each other,” Pam said of her relationship with the local school district. “We attend the same trainings so we can implement the same physical activity programs. It creates consistency for the kids because they know what activities to expect.”

Pam and her counterpart, DeShawn Bryant, who leads nutrition and gardening programs for the sites, have been working with Healthy Out-of-School Time Manager Jonathan Wallace since 2013 to improve the healthy options available at their sites. “When I started going to Jonathan’s workshops, I learned how to use the Healthy Out-of-School Time website and how to follow the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. I can always email or call Jonathan when I have questions,” said DeShawn.

Since then, DeShawn started a healthy food taste-testing program, a community health fair and a garden at one of his sites. As an alum, being part of this healthy transformation is especially meaningful for him: “When I attended the Glenview Community Center as a youth, we didn’t have the same opportunities the kids have today when it comes to nutrition awareness,” he said. “Now as an adult, I have the resources to make a difference in the health of our kids in the community of North Little Rock.”

View the original story here.