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.
Do you feel inspired by people who set a goal and stick
with it until they reach it?
If so, let us introduce you to our partner in physical
activity — Healthy Futures. This
program has gone from a homegrown effort to get families active to a statewide effort
that runs a school-based physical activity challenge motivating thousands of elementary
children to get active every day.
To support Healthy Futures, Play Every
Day urges schools to sign up for the Healthy
Futures Challenge and help us reach a significant benchmark: We have set a goal of getting 200 public elementary
schools in Alaska — that’s half — signed up for the spring physical activity challenge
in 2015. Schools can sign up for the Challenge now through Dec. 19 at http://database.healthyfuturesak.org.
Reaching this goal will be a remarkable achievement. About
10 years ago, Healthy Futures started with just two Anchorage parents — the
late Bonny Sosa Young and Sam Young — who were concerned about the growing
obesity problem in Alaska. (One out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or
obese.) The couple wanted to improve the health of Alaska children by empowering
them to build the habit of daily physical activity.
They worked at home and then a small staff joined the
program to support low-cost and no-cost physical activity events for families. The
program also developed a simple, free physical activity challenge for Alaska
elementary schools and students.
Play Every Day got involved three years ago as a
partner by supporting the Healthy Futures Challenge with annual funding and
promotional resources. The Play Every Day campaign is part of the state’s Obesity
Prevention and Control Program.
Since this partnership, school and student involvement has
grown. In the spring of 2011, 36 Alaska elementary schools and 1,342 children
participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge; by fall 2014, over 170 schools
and 18,000 kids participated — that’s 1 in 4 public elementary students in Alaska.
Healthy Futures now has other financial supporters,
too, like Providence Health & Services Alaska, the United Way of Anchorage,
ConocoPhillips, and the Alaska Kidney Foundation.
Schools all over Alaska can sign up now for the
Spring Healthy Futures Challenge, which will run in February, March and April,
2015. The free, fun challenge rewards students with incentives
for being active while giving schools with high student participation small
cash grants toward physical activity equipment.
We’re so close to our goal of 200 schools — 173 Alaska
schools participated in the Fall 2014 Challenge — and we encourage you to
support your kids and schools by asking your schools to sign up for the Healthy
Futures Challenge. Parents can also volunteer to help children fill out their
physical activity logs and help the school fill in the participation database
and turn it in to Healthy Futures each month. They can help hand out prizes to
the students when they’ve met their physical activity goals.
It’s no longer just two parents working to help Alaska
children be healthier. It’s all of us.
drinks contain added sugars, but knowing how much and in what form can prove
tricky when looking at labels. Whether organic or pure, syrup or concentrate, solid
or raw, sweeteners of all kinds add sugar to our diets and behave the same way in
sweeteners in sugary drinks lack fiber and move into the bloodstream quickly,
and this sugar overload can impact the body’s organs and lead to serious
diseases over time.
U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a maximum of eight teaspoons of added
sugar a day for the average adult on a diet of 2,000 calories, but a single 20-ounce
bottle of soda contains twice that much. American children and adults consume more than two times the recommended maximum amount of
added sugars each day, and nearly half that sugar comes from sodas,
sports drink, energy drinks, powdered drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.
these added sugars?
read the ingredient list. If a sweetener
is listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
Second, know how to find sugar by
any other name, including these:
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
High-fructose corn syrup
Brown rice syrup
Finally, convert the grams of sugar
listed on the nutrition facts label into teaspoons. Simply divide the total
number of grams of sugar by four to get the number of teaspoons per serving. If
a sugary drink label says it has 64 grams per serving, that’s 16 teaspoons of
sugar – twice the recommended daily intake of sugar for the average adult.
Keep in mind that many store bought
drinks contain more than one serving. If the bottle contains two servings,
multiply the number of grams of sugar per serving by two and then divide the
total by four. A sugary drink with 32 grams of sugar per serving and two
servings per container contains 64 grams or 16 teaspoons of sugar in the entire
Why not choose
healthy drinks instead?
drinks come in bright packages with labels that claim all sorts of things — “loaded
with vitamins,” “hydrating,” “all natural flavors.”
they really contain is added sugar and lots of it —16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce
soda or fruit-flavored drink. Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead
to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.
can fill up on these drinks rather than on healthier foods and drinks,” said
Karol Fink, manager of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program, the Alaska
Division of Public Health. “Those sugars and calories add up.”
recent survey of Alaska high school students shows that those who report a high
consumption of sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than
their peers. One out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese – and
obese kids tend to grow up to be obese adults.
health costs add up. Alaska spends about $459 million every year on obesity-related
medical expenses, according to a recent analysis, and the impact on work productivity,
social and emotional health, and the health habits of future generations only
increases the public health toll.
you drink is as important as what you eat when it comes to maintaining a
healthy weight and developing healthy habits. Water hydrates our bodies
efficiently, contains no calories and no added sugars, and is often more
convenient and affordable than other drinks. Milk adds calories, but provides essential
vitamins and nutrients.
time you sit at the family table this holiday season, talk turkey to your kids
about how much sugar is hidden in sugary drinks. For the best health, serve water
or milk. Get the facts on sugary drinks at Play Every