Professional Development

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Monday, 04 October 2021 00:00

I often hear that the HEPA standards can be overwhelming: "There are so many of them. How could I possibly implement these on my site?" Yes, there are a lot of them. But one thing to remember is that these are a vital framework—and a way to talk about healthy eating and physical activity components in afterschool programs that move the work forward.

It's essential to think about simple ways to incorporate the HEPA standards throughout your program while meeting the high demands and academic rigors. Give yourselves the freedom to be creative and have fun with it. Think about ways to incorporate physical activity into what you're already doing; you have homework time and a science club, so how can physical activity be included with them?

There are many simple, fun ways to include HEPA into many aspects of your program, especially during family and community events. A few ideas to help get those creative juices flowing:

  1. Start a walking club where you track steps, turn that into a math lesson with fractions and graphs, and then share those at the next family event.
  2. Maybe work with families to make action plans to increase their healthy eating, and get moving together.
  3. Keep these ideas and HEPA in the forefront when planning Lights on Afterschool and other events.
  4. Engage the community in cooking demos; offer healthy food options and educational materials, like MyPlate.
  5. Consider group Zumba or dance routines, yoga and stretching, hula hooping stations, and so many more—the possibilities are endless!

Sometimes talking about healthy eating and physical activity with families can be difficult, but there are tools and resources to help start a dialogue. Check out Food and Fun for tips on talking about healthy eating in conversation and through family newsletters. The resource has simple advice for starting the conversation and talking to families about fruits, vegetables, and water. Programs and sites can also create wellness policies using tools from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. These policies provide a foundation that shows families the value of healthy eating and physical activity.

Remember to have fun with this work! We can't wait to hear about how you integrate HEPA in family and community events like Lights on Afterschool! Keep up the fantastic work out there, and thank you for supporting healthy practices with young people, families, and communities. You truly are changing lives!

Contributed by Jessica Hay, MSW