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April 14
Hungry for breakfast? Petersburg High School will give you a second chance

It’s just after 9 a.m., you’ve missed breakfast, you’re hungry, and lunch is still hours away. What do you do?

If you go to Petersburg High School, you’re in luck. Second Chance Breakfast foods.jpg
It’s called the Second Chance Breakfast, and Petersburg High School offers it between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m. every day of the school year. Ginger Evens from the Petersburg City School District said the breakfast is one way to help students be more alert in the morning and successful in class.
Petersburg High School has about 140 students who start school at 8:30 every day. About 20 students show up at 7:30 for an early-morning band class and some high school students rush to get to school, run late and show up on an empty stomach, Evens said.
“When we serve Second Chance Breakfast at 9:20, then they’re ready to eat something,” she said.
The school does not have pre-school breakfast service but it has offered Second Chance Breakfast since January 2014. Last school year, an average of 28 students and staff ate the extra breakfast every day; this school year, the extra breakfast was moved to an earlier time each morning and about 18 people eat each day. Evens said the district is watching the numbers to see if any changes are needed to improve the program. Second Chance Breakfast Cart.jpg
Petersburg’s extra breakfast is a collaboration between the district’s food service program and several classes at the high school. A student from the metal shop class built the cart that serves the breakfast, and students from special education classes prepare the cart each morning and hand out several options for purchase, including fruit, whole-grain snacks, milk, yogurt and granola — foods that meet the federal nutrition guidelines.
The Second Chance Breakfast costs $2 for students and $3 for staff, but it is free or less expensive for those who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals served at school, Evens said. The students running the breakfast cart collect the money and then put the proceeds back into the school’s food service program, said Evens, the district’s Healthy Living Grant Coordinator.
Petersburg is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve physical activity and nutrition options for students. The grant funding helped the school purchase a refrigerator to store the breakfast food, as well as materials to serve it, Evens said.
Petersburg High School plans to continue offering the Second Chance Breakfast. Evens said the extra morning meal is critical to some students who lack food at home.
“The food that they are getting at school is really the only food that they are getting,” she said. “It’s really important that we provide nutritious foods for them.”
April 07
Get Your Slush On This Saturday!

​​Tough Slusher photo 040715 edit.jpgDuring the first-ever Tough Slusher race last April, there wasn’t any slush at all. Kids and families completed the short fun run in Anchorage on snow-covered trails, shuffling through some slick patches of ice.

Not this April.
Winter came and went early this year and this year’s Tough Slusher, scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, at 10 a.m., may live up to its name. Participants are encouraged to have their rubber boots ready, said Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director. Healthy Futures, Play Every Day’s partner in physical activity, has organized the 2K and 5K run/walk on the Service High School trails. The race is one of the official events recognizing the Anchorage Centennial. Banners will hang on the race course to celebrate every decade of Anchorage’s recreation history.
The race is not competitive and is open to people of all ages. There is no registration fee, but donations will go to Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has the mission of encouraging Alaska children to build the daily habit of physical activity for good health, and it supports that mission by organizing low-cost family-friendly events and school-based physical activity challenges each year. (Kids, you can count the Tough Slusher as an activity on your Healthy Futures Challenge log for April!)
 
There is no registration fee, but the event is a fundraiser and donations will go to Healthy HF tshirt and hoodie small.pngFutures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.Tough Slusher participants who contribute a minimum donation of $20 will receive a Healthy Futures T-shirt; those who contribute more than $40 can receive a Healthy Futures hoodie.
You can register online using this form. If you have any questions about the race or the registration process, contact info@healthyfuturesak.org. Bib pickup and late registration will take place at the northeast corner of the Service High School parking lot from 9 – 9:45 a.m.
See you at the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher this Saturday.
March 31
One More Month of Spring Challenge - Keep it Up!

Spring Healthy Futures Challenge 140603 Goose Lake Water 9018 web.jpgThe finish line is approaching, and thousands of Alaska kids are on their way to completing the challenge.

This week starts the last month of the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge. This spring, more than 11,000 students from about 175 elementary schools across Alaska are participating in the free, school-based challenge that helps kids get physically active. Students in schools from Kaktovik to Ketchikan and St. Paul to Eagle are tracking their activity each week, getting closer to the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended for the best health.
Winter seems to be on its way out already in many parts of Alaska, which opens up lots of new ways to get out and play. We know kids are strapping on their helmets and heading out for their first bike rides of the spring. They’re pulling on their rain boots and splashing through the nearest puddle. Families are signing up for the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher – the Anchorage race on April 11 that celebrates having fun during breakup (But more on that next week!)
Alaska children are tracking this activity on their Healthy Futures Challenge logs. To participate in the Challenge, students at elementary schools need to log their activity for the month on a simple form that they get at school. At the end of the month, they turn the log in to a teacher or a school volunteer for a cool prize. Physical activity logs will be due the last week of April. The prize for the April Challenge is a hackey sack. Children who have completed all three months of the Challenge this spring — February, March and April — will be entered in a grand prize drawing for a sports package of their choice.
Not sure if your child’s school is participating? Ask your child’s teacher or visit the Healthy Futures website. Schools will be signing up soon for the Fall 2015 Physical Activity Challenge, so encourage your school’s principals and teachers to participate.
March 25
Kicks for Kids Puts Shoes on Alaska Kids

kicks4kids.jpgIn 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.
March 17
How to Convert Grams to Teaspoons

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.Nutrition_label.JPG

But, wait.
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. tsp_sugar_small.jpg
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.
March 03
PSA shows how reading the nutrition labels can lead to good health


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: Father Shopping Ad 140605 Sagaya's City Market-0195 web250x.jpg
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“Hydrating.”
“All natural flavors.”
The key is to check the back of the bottle. That’s typically where you’ll find the drink’s nutritional label and ingredient list.
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.
Your kids will become smart shoppers and smart consumers. By choosing to buy and drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, you are teaching your children about the importance of healthy drinks.
February 25
Organized recess means playground fun at Sitka school

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?

Baranof Elementary 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. RecessPhotoPED.jpg

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.

Playworks’ 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 watch.

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.”

The 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, Quevedo said.

February 11
Double your Play Every Day with the Ski 4 Kids and Frostbite Footrace

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.

Ski4Kids 2014 045 cropped resized.jpgSign 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.Ski4Kids 2014 042 resized single skier.jpg

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 footrace online before February 25; the registration fee for children is at a lower rate. Participants also can register the morning of the race.

Which 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 all day.

January 27
Healthy Futures elementary school coordinator talks about the year so far

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 Futures.

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 ElemShellyRomerJanBlog.jpegentary 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 were off!! 

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.

Please 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.


January 20
District greenhouse puts fresh produce into Gateway schools

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. AK Gateway greenhouse.jpeg

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 and celery.

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, greenGreenhouse3 resized.jpghouse 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 state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students.

For more information about Alaska Gateway’s greenhouse, visit https://www.facebook.com/akgatewaygreenhouse.

 

Photos courtesy of Alaska Gateway School District

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