What kind of role do schools play in keeping San Joaquín Valley children healthy?
A huge role, it seems.
According to experts, children tend to gain twice as much weight over the summer than any other time of the year.
That’s partially because children don’t have structured meal times or structured times for physical activity, like they do at school, said Hilda Martínez of the Central Valley Health Network.
Schools also provide healthy environments where children and families can access healthy food and be physically active, Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) spokeswoman Brandie Banks-Bey said in an e-mail.
“In many communities, there aren’t safe places where children can play and families have a difficult time accessing healthy, affordable food,” Banks-Bey said. “Schools play a key role in supporting policies and practices that provide better opportunities for children to be able to eat healthy and be physically active.”
Both Central Valley Health Network and CCROPP are involved with programs that are designed to keep children and families healthy this summer – and year-round.
- To fight that alarming weigh-gain trend, the Central Valley Health and Nutrition Collaborative has launched a nutrition education program at the Camarena Health Centers in Madera, called the Prescription for Health Initiative.
During a consultation with a health educator, families receive a written prescription for the number of glasses of water, and the number of servings of fruits and vegetables their children should consume. Children also receive prescriptions for physical activity, such as: increase physical activity to 60 minutes a day, and reduce time watching TV and playing video games.
“If it’s written down and signed, maybe it’s a little more enforceable that way,” said Ashley Arnold, health educator at Darin M. Camarena Health Centers.
- Banks-Bey of CCROPP said the produce stand at John Burroughs Elementary would continue on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. through the summer months. There will also be a produce stand at Clinica Sierra Vista on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer.
- Also, thanks to a joint-use agreement with Fresno Unified School District, John Burroughs Elementary School is now open to the community for recreational use. During summer school hours, the school gates are open from 1 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. on weekdays. During non-summer school hours, the school gates are open from 9:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. On weekends Burroughs is open from 9:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
And in Tulare County, Pixley School is open to the community for outdoor recreational use.
So even though school is out, it seems that striving to be healthy requires year-round work.
What are you doing this summer to stay healthy? Let us know in the comments section below!