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Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Out-Of-School Time Programs

Friday, 23 August 2013 00:00

The NAA standards for healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) are up-to-date, evidence-based, practical values that foster the best possible nutrition and physical activity outcomes for children in grades K-12 attending OST programs.

 NAA hopes that sites, programs, licensing boards and even national programs will aspire to achieve, emulate and disseminate this list. The National Afterschool Association Board of Directors adopted these standards in April, 2011. During an economic and health crisis in which concerns about nutrition, physical activity and chronic disease are paramount, it is incumbent on every American afterschool program to help promote access to health promoting lifestyles.

What is "Evidence-based"? The standards are evidence-based, meaning that published findings support the standard. Following each standard are best practices that put the standard into action. These reflect scientific literature and/or reflect HOST consensus on practical methods of operationalizing the standard based on experience.

Two caveats are notable:

First, achieving these standards requires more than an executive decision. While many of the standards are easily adopted and cost little or nothing, some of the standards are harder than others to put into place, and many will require planning, retraining, and even rebudgeting. Programs should set themselves on a path to accomplish them over time. Programs should also seek help with this process, and accordingly these guidelines are not meant to stand alone. The HOST leadership team has begun identifying supports for improving healthy eating and physical activity. Supporting documents will include cycle menus, cycles for physical activity options, curricula, and quality improvement toolkits.

Second, some standards may depart from current regulations that OST programs are required to comply with. It is not the intent to put programs in conflict with regulations; the NAA standards are voluntary. Programs need to comply with current regulations stipulated through licensing or federal nutrition programs in which they participate. Further, as regulations evolve, particularly within the Child Nutrition Act of 2010, some of the language in this document may be adjusted to promote congruence and reduce conflict.

(The HOST leadership team members are Jean Wiecha, Ellen Gannett, Georgia Hall and Barbara Roth.)

 Click HERE for the standards.