For nearly 40 years The Friedman School has created leaders in nutrition, with a focus on building programs to affect real change toward healthier neighborhoods and communities. ChildObesity180 (CO180) is one of many successful initiatives grown out of Friedman's fertile ground. Bringing together the top leaders from business, academia, non-profits, and the scientific community, CO180 has proven that creating sustainable, scalable strategies to reduce and reverse childhood obesity can, and should, take an entire village.
Healthy Kids Out of School, (HKOS) an initiative of ChildObesity180, is a concerted effort to create and build programming into after-school activities that will help children develop life-long healthy habits. Their collaboration with the Boy and Girl Scouts of America to create a new wellness patch is an exciting new endeavor that has taken us leaps and bounds toward achieving this goal.
Working in partnership with national and local Scout leaders through funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, HKOS developed and piloted the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Award for Boy Scouts during a 3-year study in New England. The success of the patch for the Boy Scouts created demand for a similar Girl Scouts program from leaders across the country. The result: the Strong Girls Healthy Meeting Patch, a program launched last year to help Girl Scouts make healthy habits the norm during meetings, with a goal of spreading these habits to their friends, family, and community.
“The more we do it, the more they take the idea home. Parents are making comments about the girls drinking more water and eating less junk food.”
Scout meetings, which take place throughout the school year, provide an ideal setting for the discussion and exchange of ideas amongst children and troop leaders about why healthy habits are important. The troops earn the patch after practicing the healthy habits set forth in the program during a number of meetings. They eat fruits and vegetables when snacks are served, drink water instead of sugary beverages, and set aside time for at least 15 minutes of physical activity.
“Incorporating the 15 minutes of physical activity after snack time at the meetings enabled them to concentrate better on learning activities. Their concentration improved on the tasks at hand and they really had fun doing the different activities.”
The Patch activities empower children to engage in healthy behavior outside of meetings. Some examples include a fruit and vegetable taste test, and an activity that illustrates the amount of sugar in common beverages. Taking on these healthy habits in a supportive environment of peers and role models has a heightened potential to achieve a positive ripple effect on children’s lives.
To date, over 20,000 Boy and Girl Scouts have earned the patch directly through Healthy Kids Out of School. The Strong Girls Healthy Meeting patch has already been adopted in Girl Scout Councils in eight states and D.C., with plans to launch in five more states next fall.