OCPS Chef and Student with Healthy Kids Challenge Director

OCPS student, chef with Healthy Kids Challenge Director

Orange County Public Schools OCPS, Orlando, Florida, and Healthy Kids Challenge have been Partners In Health for several years now. From energizing school wellness teams to offering creative ways to get kids excited about school meals through the HKC Ready, Set, Cook and Eat event, to showcasing how to integrate nutrition education into science and math curriculum, many success stories exist.


The most recent and the most honoring for all involved is the Healthy Kids Challenge involvement with OCPS in their Chefs Move to Schools program.


The Orlando Sentinel has featured many fun pictures here: Pictures: OCPS Chefs’ new menu promotion at Edgewater High School

Hats off to Orange County Public Schools from Healthy Kids Challenge! 

Just one example of how creative partnerships can mastermind simple solutions to health.


Chef Inspired, Kid Approved

February 14, 2011

Healthy Kids Challenge was honored to help Orange County Public Schools unveil new Chef Inspired, Kid Approved school lunch recipes at a unique Chefs Move to Schools event at Edgewater High School Auditorium, Orlando, FL, in celebration of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Sam Kass, White House Assistant Chef and Senior White House Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives (far right), and Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (right), watch as Metrowest Elementary School chef students show off their recipes. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot)

Sam Kass, White House Assistant Chef and Senior White House Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives (far right), and Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (right), watch as Metrowest Elementary School chef students show off their recipes. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot)

The official Let’s Move Blog features USDA Deputy Under Secretary for the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Dr. Janey Thornton’s account of the event. 

We join Dr. Janey Thornton, Chef Sam Kass, Orange County Public Schools’ (OCPS) Foodservice Director, Lora Gilbert, and all the chefs, students, teachers, support staff, and administrators in celebrating this exciting event!

We recognize, too, that this was no small feat! Imagine all the work it took to bring 10 schools together to work with outside chefs and create new healthy recipes to use for school lunch. We believe OCPS is a model school district for food and nutrition. Stay tuned, because this is only the beginning!

Children need a culture of health.  Join HKC as we move to change the culture to one that is conducive to healthy nutrition choices and more physical movement.  HKC supports Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and its efforts that have already begun the shift toward a culture of health for our children. 

I think recent nutrition and activity news headlines are indicative of the beginnings of this needed culture change.  Here’s one that caught my eye last week, and the whole article is worth a moment of your time: “Behavior changes won’t work on their own without seismic societal shifts, health experts say, because eating too much and exercising too little are merely symptoms of a much larger malady.”  –Fixing a World that Fosters Fat, by Natasha Singer, The New York Times.  You should also check out the Hartman Group’s Wellness 2010:  Balance Redefined market research report.

Here’s a handful of links I’ve found around the web in support a culture of health.  I am posting the title exactly as it is worded on each of these web pages.  It does not imply that Healthy Kids Challenge agrees or disagrees with any of them.  I merely want to illustrate through headlines, the vast complexity of the issue of a cultural shift toward health.

Doctors Write ‘Prescriptions’ For Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages to Curb Obesity

Baby Carrots Take On Junk Food With Hip Marketing Campaign

Eliminating Flavored Milk From Schools Shortsighted

Foodlink’s Rochester Farm Stand Hopes to Change Inner-City Diets

If you’re interested in what I do wholeheartedly believe is working to help create a culture of health, check out our Best Practices section of our website.

In the healthy nutrition for children area, for example:

Positive Attitudes for Fruits/Veggies  At the end of the school year 90-95% of students were excited about receiving fruits/vegetables at snack times.

School Cafeteria Increases Fruit/Veggie Eating  “Veggie Dippers” went from 100 to over 200 portions served.

In the physical activity area, here are a couple of examples as well:

Goal Setting Motivates Kids  Each student increased on average 11,400 steps by setting a step goal: the equivalent of an additional 5 miles per student!

Integrating Physical Activity In the School Day  Increased minutes of motion in 100% of classrooms by 30 minutes per week; a 30% increase over the previous year!

One thing I think is for sure, creating a culture of health is going to take all of us working together.  At Healthy Kids Challenge we refer to a person who can help kids make healthy eating and physical activity choices a habit, a KidLinkTM.  All of us can become KidLinks in a culture of health!  Do you see a culture of health forming where you live?

Enjoy A Healthy Balance

August 24, 2010

What does a healthy balance mean to you?  You know it’s the core of our mission, to help people help kids eat, move, and enjoy a healthy balance.  I think it means truly enjoying everything in moderation, but what do you think?

The Hartman Group’s new report has a great little table that compares our perceptions of balance today to 10 years ago.  I really like their interpretation of the general trend to mean that people are now “emphasizing the more playful side of wellness”;  and “less misery, more pleasure”.

How interesting…People view exercise as play and fun and eating right as pleasurable!  My own conclusion is maybe they even believe wellness is about enjoying a healthy balance.  Obviously something has changed in the past 10 years.  Do you agree? 

Of course I’d like to also believe that Healthy Kids Challenge has something to do with this general trend toward kids and families enjoying active play and healthy eating.  After all, it is exactly what we strive to do every day.  Like today for instance.  We are helping kids enjoy a healthy balance in Charles City, Virginia through our School Challenge Distance Assistance Program.  Let’s go back to the original question, though.  What about you?  I’m interested in knowing what a healthy balance means to you.

It’s a loaded question, isn’t it?  I think it depends on what healthy means to you. 

You can look at it as an overall picture of having the right environment, or structurally speaking the best designs for making walking and biking easier.  But I really believe a healthy community is made up of healthy people.  You can’t make a healthy community without individuals who have a personal interest in their own health and well-being.  Does it mean you eat only healthy foods, or do you enjoy an occasional treat?  Does it mean you go to the gym seven days a week, or do you simply enjoy an active lifestyle?  Maybe it’s a balance of food and movement for all ages. 

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is making it clear that every one of us needs to be involved in solving the childhood obesity problem within a generation.  Take a good hard look at yourself, your family, your community.  After all, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) evidence shows adult obesity rates have increased in 28 states.  In fact, 38 states have an obesity rate above 25%!  One in four adults are obese in most states in our United States.  RWJF hasn’t published new data on childhood obesity yet, but as adults we have to take personal responsibility for our own health and our children’s health, because it is truly an epidemic.  Healthy Kids Challenge is meeting the obesity challenge head-on, including strategies in line with the Let’s Move campaign.

Did you know RWJF is launching an online forum about the best actions for reversing the childhood obesity epidemic?  It would be a good idea for all of us to register and join the conversation.  The president of RWJF says we have to make every community a healthy community and I wholeheartedly agree.

Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC) is right on target with the White House report, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, providing services, training and materials consistent with the recommendations in the report. See how HKC addresses the concerns of the report excerpts below :

Early Childhood Care and Education
Early childhood settings provide a tremendous opportunity to prevent obesity by making an impact at a pivotal phase in children’s lives. Young children need opportunities to be physically active  through play and other activities. Preschool years in particular are crucial for obesity prevention due to the timing of the development of fat tissue, which typically occurs from ages 3-7 years. Eating well is equally important for the healthy development of young children.

  • HKC has provided early childhood training sponsored by the Platte County (Missouri) Health Department for childcare providers to incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into their settings.
  • HKC also offers a pre-K Berry,Berry Good booklet, teaching colors, numbers, shapes and letters with fruit and veggie messages and movement.

Making Nutrition Information Useful
Healthy eating habits in childhood and adolescence are important for positive growth and development and can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Today, the eating habits of many young people are inconsistent with the recommendations in the Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, thus increasing the risk of obesity. To assist parents and caregivers in establishing healthy eating habits for children, they should have greater access to the right tools and resources that increase nutritional knowledge and help them make healthier choices.

  • HKC has developed a hands-on learning experience called Walk Through the Pyramid™. It teaches kids and families in a fun and entertaining way the basics of the Dietary Guidelines in the form of MyPyramid.
  • HKC also offers pre-K through 8th grade educational booklets to assist teachers, youth leaders and families with healthy eating and physical activity ideas.

Food-Related Factors in the School Environment
Many facets of the school setting can affect children’s dietary choices. In too many schools the connection between service of meals and other foods at school and the responsibility to educate, enable, and motivate healthful nutrition habits is weak or non-existent. More and better nutrition education is needed in many schools.

  • HKC provides nutrition education training and coaching with our School Challenge Distance Assistance Program. The School Challenge program also provides team building skills, resources and materials, and evaluation tools to build a healthy school environment.

Increasing Physical Activity
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Children should have opportunities to be active throughout the day and year round. In addition to physical education class and recess, schools can offer students breaks for movement during the day in class and also incorporated into the lesson plan.

  • HKC is teaming up with SPARK, a research-based physical education expert, to offer IGNITE workshops and training  to provide school staff the skills to incorporate physical activity and healthy eating into the school environment.

Healthy Kids Challenge is on track to continue the fight against childhood obesity. Join us! 


Q & A with SPARK – Part 1

February 1, 2010

The U.S. Surgeon General and First Lady are challenging our nation to eat healthy and get more physical activity. Healthy Kids Challenge knows that there are many questions people have about physical activity, so we have enlisted our exclusive Healthy School Environment and Physical Education partner, SPARK, to give some advice and answers to this topic.  

SPARK is a nationally recognized, research-based organization that disseminates Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.


Q: I hear about physical education and physical activity during the school day, are they the same?

A:  No, they are not synonymous. “Physical Education” (PE) refers to a structured class taught by a Physical Education Specialist or Classroom Teacher (in instances where there are few or no PE Specialists) designed to address specific physical education standards (see below). Daily Physical education is recommended by many organizations, but is not required. There are minimum amounts of PE required by law in most states.

“Physical activity” (PA) during the school day can include any structured or unstructured activities involving physical movement. This may include Physical Education class, recess, before and after-school programs, activity breaks in the classroom, jog-a-thons, dances, field events, etc. that take place at school before, during, and after the school day.

SPARK encourages a combination of both quality physical education and physical activity opportunities through out the school day and week.  We also have seen the importance of having a certified physical education specialist work as the champion for both PE and PA within their school community.

National Physical Education Standards from the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)

Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.

Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.


Q: I would like to incorporate some physical activity into my classroom during breaks or free time, but I am at a loss! Could you give me a few ideas to use for my 5th graders?

A: Sure! There are so many things you could do with 5th graders to get them moving in the classroom throughout the day! SPARK divides these types of limited space activities into 3 categories – SPARK Space Savers, SPARK Plugs, and SPARK Anchors.

“SPARK Space Savers” are activities from the SPARK PE curriculum that can be adapted for limited space to keep students active during inclement weather or when the usual activity area is unavailable.

SPARK Space Saver Sample #1: Centipede Bucket Brigade (Click Here)

 SPARK Space Saver Sample #2: Limited Space Circuit (Click Here)

 SPARK Space Saver Sample #3: Grab the Apple (Click Here)

SPARK Plugs” are used to quickly energize your students throughout the day. When students are not engaged, their brains will likely tune out within 10 minutes. Use these to promote readiness for learning, create excitement and overcome the effects of fatigue.

SPARK Plug Sample #1: Around the World (Click Here)

 SPARK Plug Sample #2: Hand Pat Relay (Click Here)

 SPARK Plug Sample #3: Odds and Evens (Click Here)

“SPARK Anchors” use movement to help “anchor” learning. Integrating other subjects with movement can be accomplished with minimal effort and maximum benefit. Use these samples as a guide to assist in creating additional support teaching the whole child, mind and body.

SPARK Anchor Sample #1: Odd Hops and Even Jumps (Click Here)

SPARK Anchor Sample #2: Sentence Detectives (Click Here)


Q: My child isn’t really very athletic.  What is a good way to help him enjoy being active?

A: It is important to acknowledge that athletics and physical activity are not the same thing. Athletes are usually gifted with traits such as speed, agility, endurance, etc. needed to succeed in a specific sport or sports and choose to pursue that sport in a competitive forum.

The rest of us non-athletes enjoy participating in all sorts of physical activities suited toward our tastes and physical attributes. These are usually done for reasons other than competition such as health, making friends, feeling good, losing weight, or just pure enjoyment among many. First thing to do is find out what your son enjoys. Is it hiking? Swimming? Dancing? Jumping on a trampoline? Bike riding? Jumping rope? Whatever it is, that is what he should be doing. To increase enjoyment during any activity, have your son play his favorite music or invite a friend to join him. Providing your son with support and encouragement will go a long way to promoting a lifetime of physical activity.


Q: Is warm-up and cool-down really necessary with exercise?

A: The safe answer is “Yes.” However, if your students have just come from recess or some other type of physical activity, your warm-up has probably been taken care of. The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments so they are ready for vigorous activity. This blood flow helps the body by making it more “elastic” and less likely to tear when overstretched or pushed too far too fast. If you don’t have much time for PE, have your students walk/jog to your activity area to warm them up during transition.

As far as cool-down, it is not so much necessary as it is a great opportunity. During this time students can work on increasing flexibility through stretching exercises as well as bringing the body back to pre-activity levels to move back into the classroom. It is also the perfect time to have students demonstrate understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the performance of physical activities done in the lesson (NASPE Standard 2).


Q:  What are some good motivational tools to help fit physical activity into each day?

A: Everyone has different motivations for staying physically active, although we hope that most of those motivations are centered on personal wellness.  In a school setting it is important to know that research has shown a number of benefits for including more physical activity and physical education into students’ schedules.  At a minimum – more minutes for PE & PA has not been shown to decrease testing performance, and many studies suggest that students are better prepared for testing and learning after physical activity.  Further, new brain research shows that aerobic conditioning is very beneficial to brain development and performance. Both California and Texas have shown a direct relationship between performance on fitness tests and academic achievement test.

We’re not suggesting that Test Scores should be the primary motivation for keeping children active throughout the day.  However, in most schools where we have worked – academic achievement is the still the primary indicator of a school’s success.

Our core belief is that staying active and physically fit can keep students mentally and emotionally balanced as well.  We strive to educate the entire child for a life of success, productivity and happiness.  A life free from many of the burdens brought about by diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles.


Let us know what you think of these question and answers! If your school needs to develop a healthier environment, together, SPARK and HKC offer an “Ignite a Healthy Environment” Program (Click here  and here for more info).

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