January 27, 2010
WELLESLEY, MA--The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assess physical activity and healthy eating standards and practices in out-of-school time (OST) programs.
Funded through the Foundation’s Active Living Research Program, the one-year project will look at OST programs that serve children and youth, grades K-12, during afternoons, evenings, holidays, and vacations. Those serving low-income children of color will be a particular focus in the national sample of programs.
The project is a collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) and the YMCA of the USA. Project directors Georgia Hall, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at NIOST, and Jean Wiecha, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the UMass Boston Department of Exercise and Health Science, will work with Ellen Gannett, M.Ed., Director of NIOST, and Barbara Roth, M.Ed., YMCA National Director for Youth and Family Programs.
“We want to create meaningful change to ensure quality physical activity and healthy eating practices across a broad range of out-of-school time and youth development programs,” Hall said. “The result will be improvements in children's health and well-being.”
The project will allow the investigators to initiate policy research that will assess current OST physical activity and healthy eating standards and practices and inform new national policies that will be put in place by the Council on Accreditation and the National Afterschool Association. The project team will disseminate information on effective implementation and lay the groundwork for a future tool kit to assist OST programs in developing effective program strategies.
“Millions of schoolchildren attend afterschool programs, but we really don’t know much about the snacks and activities the programs provide,” Wiecha said. “This is a great opportunity to determine the baseline so the afterschool community can craft appropriate standards that support obesity prevention and health promotion.”
For more than 30 years, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time has advanced the afterschool field through its research, education and training, consultation, and field building. Much of NIOST’s work has encompassed projects of national scope and influence, several representing “firsts” for the field and many focusing on building out-of-school time systems.