In Alaska, where the ground is often buried in snow or slick with ice, some kids come to school wearing shoes that are duct-taped together.
Two boys want to play for the school basketball team. The trick is they both can’t play at the same time, because they need to share the same pair of shoes.
A coach knows that if he doesn’t buy shoes for his athletes, he won’t have enough kids to make up a team.
Colleen Franks had heard all these stories from Alaska schools and knew something had to be done to put shoes — shoes that fit right and protect the feet — on all children going to school. That’s how Franks, a business owner in Anchorage, started working with schools districts, businesses and partners throughout Alaska to create the nonprofit shoe recycling program called Kicks for Kids.
“It’s been three years, and we’ve given out close to 3,000 pairs of shoes now from preschool through 12th (grade),” Franks said.
“There are schools where we are trying to get shoes and boots on every kid,” Franks said. “The need is ridiculously high.”
Franks and her family run Aurora Kids Gymnastics for young children in Anchorage. Her goal is to provide opportunities for sports, and overall fitness, to Alaska kids.
“When I started to realize that so many kids were having difficulty participating because they didn’t have the proper shoes, it really bothered me,” she said.
Franks received support from the Anchorage School District. This school year, Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage donated one pair of shoes for each student enrolled at the school, Franks said. Franks also partners with an Alaska nonprofit organization called “The Basics,” which helps raise funds to support Kicks for Kids.
Each Anchorage school and some schools in other Alaska school districts now have buckets to collect shoes that can be shared with children in need. Parents and others can donate shoes, rain boots and winter boots that their children have outgrown. If teachers notice a child in need, they can pull a pair of shoes from their school’s bucket and put them on the child right there. When buckets overflow with shoes, Franks collects them, brings them home, washes them and creates an inventory for other schools that need more shoes than they have in their buckets.
Franks said the Kicks for Kids team of volunteers brought 250 pairs to 18 different schools during a recent week. The program also sent dozens of shoes to Kenai schools. Kicks for Kids is sharing shoes with children in other communities, too, including Eagle River, Dillingham, Fairbanks, even Anaktuvuk Pass.
“The goal is we go statewide,” Franks said.
Kicks for Kids also partners with businesses, like Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage.
“We’re all about trying to promote healthy lifestyles,” said John Clark, who handles the store’s purchasing. Skinny Raven asks Kicks for Kids to stop by frequently to pick up shoes for children in need.
The store donates used shoes from its customers, last year’s models of sneakers, returned shoes, even demo shoes that are often used just a few times and are still in great shape.
Franks said she often hears how grateful the children are for the new shoes.
“These are the best shoes the kids have ever had,” she said.
Kicks for Kids shoes go to kids who need them to participate in school track and sports teams, but they also go to kids who just need something to protect their growing feet. To help Kicks for Kids, parents can add their children’s outgrown shoes to buckets in schools in Anchorage and other communities. Franks said the program takes all shoes and boots, no matter how beaten up they are from use – “Nothing goes to waste.” People also can donate to The Basics to support programs like Kicks for Kids. To learn more, visit Kicks for Kids on Facebook.
* Photo courtesy of the Kicks for Kids program.
So, you read our blog about the importance of reading the ingredient lists on the foods and drinks you consume. Now you’ve decided to start keeping track of your sugar intake by keeping an eye on those nutrition labels.
That bowl of granola you had for breakfast — the one made with all natural ingredients, the one with nuts and flax seeds—can contain 14 grams of sugar.
That drink you had for lunch — the one loaded with protein and made with all organic ingredients — that protein drink can contain 12 grams of sugar.
A 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 39 grams of sugar.
The problem is “grams” doesn’t really mean that much to us. How much is 12 grams of sugar?
Here’s a simple mathematical formula that can help you manage the amount of “hidden” sugar you consume every day. It converts grams to teaspoons — the unit of measure we’re more familiar with in the kitchen.
By dividing the total grams of sugar by four, you get the number of teaspoons. So, for example, four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar — about the same amount found in most sugar packets.
Even if you don’t sprinkle any additional sugar on your bowl of granola, it can already contain three and a half teaspoons of sugar (14 grams). You’d never add three and a half teaspoons of sugar to a bowl of cereal, but it’s in there already. Your lunchtime protein drink contains three teaspoons of added sugar (12 grams), and a can of cola contains just almost 10 teaspoons of added sugar (39 grams).
Get your kids involved in doing the math on their foods and drinks. They can learn how to find those hidden sugars and add them up.
Buying healthy drinks for your family can be very confusing. That’s because the words you may find on the front of a bottle don’t always tell you what’s in the drink. They don’t tell you about the large amount of sugar that can be hiding inside.
Pick up a bottle of a sugary drink and the front label may use words that make the drink sound healthy:
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“All natural flavors.”
This is the main message in Play Every Day’s new public service announcement running on TV stations in communities across Alaska. The PSA features a dad shopping in a grocery store with his children. When the kids pull a powdered drink and a vitamin-enhanced drink from the store shelf, the dad turns the bottles around and shows them the ingredient list. If sweeteners are listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
When you’re looking for sugar on the ingredient list, watch out for other words. Sweeteners go by many names, including common ones like honey and syrup, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose and fruit nectar.
Next time you shop with your children, look for sodas, powdered drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks on the shelves. Turn the bottles around and show your kids the ingredient lists. Help them find the added sugars and ask them if these sugars are listed among the first three ingredients.
When you send kids outside to play at recess, they know
what to do, right?
They know to be active, have a good time, include
everyone else in the game?
School, a Sitka school that teaches about 250 preschool through first-grade
students, started a structured recess program in the fall of 2013 because staff
realized that not all children knew what to do on the playground, or how to
start up games with other kids. Ramon Quevedo, student success coordinator with
the Sitka School
District, said most of the referrals to the principal’s office came from conflicts
on the playground. Conflicts that started on the playground would come
into the classroom, making it difficult for the children to learn, he said.
To help children play and reduce behavior problems, Sitka
used federal grant funding to hire a nonprofit organization called Playworks to visit the Sitka school and
help staff and students start organized play. By the end of the 2013-14 school
year, Baranof saw a 50 percent reduction in playground-related behavior
referrals, Quevedo said.
mission is that every child can play, every day. “On our playgrounds,
everyone plays, everyone belongs and everyone contributes to the game,” said
the Playworks website. Staff from Playworks visit schools like Baranof
Elementary to train school staff on how to run an organized recess program and
teach safe games that any child is able to play.
Quevedo said the Playworks rules on the playground are
simple: “Be respectful. Be safe. Have fun.”
Kids are encouraged to make new friends while they are
learning new games, he said. Playworks uses simple tools like
rock-paper-scissors to help children settle conflicts. Playworks encourages
adults on the playground to get out and play with the kids, not just stand and
When recess is over, a staff member blows a whistle and
everyone stands still, Quevedo said.
“It’s just an easy way for them to transition and get
ready to come back to the classroom,” he said. At Baranof, they call its
“Freeze, Knees” — when all the kids stop moving and grab their knees. Then they
high-five the kids who have been playing with them.
“It’s something really simple,” Quevedo said. “It’s
really contagious. They just love to give high-fives.”
Sitka School District is one
of eight districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention
and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for
students. Playworks has been so successful at improving physical activity at
Baranof Elementary that the Sitka School District completed another Playworks training
session for Keet
Gooshi Heen Elementary, the school that teaches grades 2 through 5 in Sitka,
Looking for fun ways to get your kids active this month? Clear
your calendar on Saturday, February 28, because there are two family events in
the Anchorage area.
Sign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids event at
Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Children through age 14 can participate in a 3K
timed or untimed ski race, and parents are welcome to ski along, too. Every
child finishes with a medal. Children can also try snowshoeing, orienteering, obstacle
courses and more. Indoor events at the chalet and outdoor events in the park
start at 12:30 p.m. The ski race begins at 1:30 p.m.
Families can register for Ski 4 Kids online, or
register the day of the event. There is no set participant fee, but donations
are recommended. Proceeds benefit the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s ski outreach
program and a Nordic
Skiing Association of Anchorage grant program that provides ski equipment
to schools and youth organizations.
Got a costume and no place to wear it? Put it on and
join the Frostbite
Footrace and Costume Fun Run February 28 in downtown Anchorage. The Fur Rondy event is designed for “hardy”
Alaskans prepared for any weather. People of all ages and abilities can sign up
for 5K or 2K fun runs that start at 9:30 a.m. The race course begins near the
Fifth Avenue Skywalk and ends at Sixth Avenue and H Street. Register for the
before February 25; the registration fee for children is at a lower rate.
Participants also can register the morning of the race.
event will you choose? The good news is you can do both. With the Frostbite Footrace
in the morning and the Ski 4 Kids in the afternoon, you can get out and play
Guest blog by Shelley Romer, the elementary school program coordinator for Healthy Futures.
It’s been an exciting first half of the 2014/15
school year for Healthy
Our program had a record number of students from
173 Alaska schools participate in the Fall 2014 Healthy Futures Challenge —
nearly 18,500 kids, in fact. The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts this
Sunday, Feb. 1. We already have 188 schools signed up with an open invitation for more.
As the new Elementary School Program
Coordinator for Healthy Futures, I have been pleased to see how hard-working
and enthusiastic everyone has been in raising the bar to develop the habit of
daily physical activity. So many people have contributed to getting Alaska
children physically active by keeping track of activity logs, entering data
into the Healthy Futures database, and distributing prizes. It’s a lot of work,
but we have teachers, community members, and parents who go above and beyond what
it takes to help get kids excited about being active and healthy.
It helps to have amazing Alaska athletes cheering
kids on. We kicked off this school year by supporting the Anchorage School
District’s elementary school Jamborees. Our Healthy Heroes — Olympians Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, the APU Nordic Ski
Team, the UAA Cross Country Running Team, and many other local athletes — made the
events even more special by providing some truly inspiring and motivating
energy. It was amazing to stand in front of a group of kids who had just warmed
up with our Healthy Heroes and were ready to get the race started. Then… they
Determination and gumption flew by as kids ran toward
the finish line. Regardless of whether they finished first or last, thousands
of kids were giving it everything they had while being cheered on by the crowd and
our local athletes.
Here at Healthy
Futures, we definitely practice what we teach. I enjoy rock climbing, hiking,
running, skiing of all kinds, playing outside with my nieces and nephews, and
just getting outside to walk and clear my head or catch up with friends and
family. My coworkers are amazing mountain runners, triathletes, skiers, and
people who just like to get out and move. We know the importance of integrating
activity into our daily lives, but we also know how fun it is, the benefits of
challenging ourselves, how much better we feel when we move, and how great it
is to be a part of a community.
We know that research shows
a link between the lack of activity and health-related problems like obesity
and diabetes. With so many things pointing to more sedentary lifestyles, it can
seem a little daunting to address these issues, but kids are meant to move and
they love to move. It is up to us to provide and support an environment that
promotes what they do naturally.
join us and support your children and your students as they participate in the Spring
Healthy Futures Challenge and get out and play, every day.
More than 300 miles up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage,
a school district greenhouse promises a bounty of healthy produce for hundreds
of Alaska school children.
The Alaska Gateway
School District built the 33- by 96-foot greenhouse in Tok to grow and
supply produce to all seven schools in the district. The district serves 370
students in Tok, Dot Lake, Eagle, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta
Lake and Northway.
The greenhouse project – funded through several
sources, including district funds, a legislative appropriation and a federal
U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School grant – reduces the amount of
food the schools need to import and transport.
“Having it locally has made a big difference in how
fresh the food is,” said Bonnie Emery, Alaska Gateway’s horticulturist.
Emery said the first planting went in the greenhouse in
the spring of 2014, the year after its construction. The interior space allows her to
grow fruits and vegetables in Interior Alaska almost all year. This year, she
grew strawberries, melons, spinach, kale, different types of lettuce, tomatoes,
cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans, snap peas and more.
“I still have things growing in the greenhouse,” said
Emery in December when she was still growing spinach, tomatoes, turnip greens
The Biomass Heating Plant in Tok uses trees removed to
prevent wildfires to heat and power Tok School, including the greenhouse, which
also runs additional heaters and grow lights to continue gardening through the
winter. “At this point, it’s sort of an
experiment to see how far we can go,” said Emery.
In January, greenhouse staff reported that temperatures
in Tok dipped to minus 40 degrees, and yet the greens, spinach and celery
inside the greenhouse stayed alive.
Needless to say, the Alaska Gateway greenhouse also
provides an ongoing learning opportunity. Students at Tok School start seeds in
the classroom and transplant them to the greenhouse, and all district students can
tour the greenhouse to learn how fruits and vegetables are planted, harvested
and then served at schools, said Scott MacManus, assistant superintendent for
the district. “All the kids from the whole district will do field trips to the
school and go to the greenhouse and see how it works,” he noted.
MacManus said the district would like to work with the
state’s university system to start an arctic agriculture program that focuses
on what grows best in northern communities like Tok. Alaska Gateway is one
of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the
Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options
For more information about Alaska Gateway’s greenhouse,
Photos courtesy of Alaska Gateway School
it comes from fruit, it must be healthy, right? When eating fresh, raw fruit,
then yes, absolutely.
not when drinking 100 percent fruit juice, which lacks much of the fiber and nutrients
that makes fruit healthy for us in the first place:
Fruit juice “is just as full of calories as
the whole food but filters out lots of the fiber and micro-nutrients and
delivers all the sugar and calories in liquid form that does not make you feel
full,” said Dr. Susan Beesley, a pediatrician with the Anchorage Pediatric
Group. “Also, juice is horrible for teeth. Because of its sugar content, it
causes lots of cavities, especially if it is used as a drink that is available
to children constantly throughout the day or night.”
much 100 percent fruit juice, along with other sugary drinks, contributes to
obesity and tooth decay in Alaska — where one out of three Alaska children is overweight
or obese and cavity rates are high.
“think that since fruit is healthy, fruit juice must also be healthy,” said Beesley.
Plus, “kids tend to like juice (because it is so sugary), so parents think they
are giving something healthy to their kids that they also like.”
juices contain nearly as much sugar as soda, with as much as 16 teaspoons in a
20-ounce portion, or nearly twice the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
recommended maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average
adult. Plus, Beesley added, kids who get in a routine of consuming sugary
juices can carry that habit over their lifetimes by drinking other sugary
drinks, like soda, sports drinks or energy drinks.
show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2
diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. That’s why pediatricians recommend
water as the default drink for kids, with fat-free and low-fat milk as
“I do not think kids should drink any juice,”
said Beesley, “but if they must, it should be given in a small volume with a
meal.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces
(1/2 to ¾ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day for young children. Beesley also discourages
serving sugar-free juices or alternatives “because I think they will get kids
used to drinking sweet beverages.”
(Photo courtesy Dr. Susan Beesley)
Otherways to limit juice consumption include making it available only on special
occasions, like when traveling by plane or when going out to dinner. Diluting
juice with water helps reduce sugar intake, but it still means saturating teeth
in sugar, said Beesley.
By not buying and serving
juice at home and limiting consumption elsewhere, parents help kids establish good
habits for drinking water and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy kids should
drink two cups of fat-free or low fat milk each day and lots of water, nothing
Science tells us that too much added sugar can lead to
unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and other
unhealthy outcomes, even in young children. Eating and drinking
added sugar contributes to obesity and comes at a significant price: Alaska
spends about $459
million a year on obesity-related medical expenses, and the cost to our
children’s health impacts their quality of life.
What can we do to help our children build a healthy
Well, our kids learn their habits from us. They do what
we do. The best way to get them to play outside is to go outside with them. The
best way to get them to eat right is to eat healthy meals beside them. And
since Americans consume nearly half their added sugar from sugary drinks, the
easiest and most effective way to cut down on added sugar is to stop drinking
“If you or your child drinks just one can of soda a
day, you or he will drink more than 3,500 teaspoons of added sugar by the end
of the year,” noted Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Obesity
Prevention and Control Program in the Alaska Department of Health and
Social Services. “That’s more than 30 pounds of sugar.”
In the health department’s new public service announcement
Starts With Me, a mother reflects on how her habits influence her
daughter’s: “At first I didn’t think how my soda habit could affect her health,
but when I noticed the extra pounds I put on due to my daily habit, and that
I’m putting myself at risk for diabetes and heart disease, I began to wonder…
what are sugary drinks doing to her?”
Beverages like soda, sports and energy drinks,
vitamin-enhanced drinks, fruit-flavored or powdered drinks, and sweetened teas,
coffees and milks add sugars and calories with little or no nutrients. Some of
these drinks can contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar in just 20 ounces, twice
the maximum amount of added sugar (8 teaspoons) recommended for the average
adult by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
your kids to stay healthy? Start by reducing or eliminating the sugary drinks
you buy, serve and consume. After all, good health habits start with you.
potlucks and break room goodies can add to our waistlines, but wrapping
ourselves in festive coats and ugly sweaters only skirts the truth – that
during the holidays, we often exceed our fuel needs with a heavy dose of added
a holiday favorite, the 16-ounce whole-milk eggnog latte, which weighs in at 460
calories, 22 grams of fat and 6 teaspoons of added sugar.
is very similar to a milkshake at most fast food restaurants,” said Diane Peck,
a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social
Services. “In comparison, a non-fat latte only has 130 calories, no fat
and no added sugar.”
in liquids hits the blood stream faster and leads to cravings for more,
said Rikki Keen, an adjunct professor for the Department of Health, Physical Education &
Recreation at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
think people don’t realize that you’re not going to feel full when you drink
things,” she said. “Liquids just don’t do that. Those drinks have no fiber, so
you’re setting yourself up for another sugar fix soon after.”
who also works as the team dietician for the UAA Seawolves and an exercise
physiologist for other organizations, noted a growing body of science
surrounding the impact of sugar on the body. “It should be a real turnaround for
folks,” Keen explained. “People will begin to realize that sugar’s not good for
the heart, that it contributes to low grade inflammation that leads to a
laundry list of disease states that we’re just now finding out.”
how do you keep the balance in a season of sugar plums and hot cocoa? For
starters, said Peck, continue to stay active. (Adults should shoot for at least
2.5 hours of physical activity a week and kids should get physically active 60 minutes a
day, every day.) Also, keep eating low calorie foods and drinks like water
and fruits and vegetables.
going to parties or events, said Keen, eat something nutritious to avoid
feeling hungry when walking by the sweet tables.
important, commit yourself to tracking what you eat. Grab a notebook, create a
document, or upload a free app to log what you consume. Apps work well because
they break down the nutritional content of everything you eat and tally the
you really know what you eat and drink, “it becomes the reality the next day
and forces you to be much more aware and accountable,” said Keen.
athletes, dieticians and nutritionists partake in holiday sweets now and again?
Absolutely, but they do so with intention.
go-to treat is my own coffee and I add a bit of regular sugar, milk and whey
protein,” said Keen. Other options include going with low or no fat milk and
asking for just one shot of syrup.
indulges in holiday treats occasionally, too, but she balances it out with
lower calorie drinks “like hot spice tea, no sugar, sparkling water with a
splash of fruit juice, or a small ‘skinny tan hot cocoa, no whip.’”
As for the best drink for
health and hydration, whatever the season, they agree: Water.