Many kids spend more time with their teachers and caregivers at school than they do with their families at home, making the educational environment an ideal place to instill healthy habits that can last a lifetime. A nonprofit organization called Action for Healthy Kids aims to make schools healthier places, fighting obesity with nutritious foods and fun, fitness-improving physical play time.
At schools like Spencer Technology Academy in Chicago, exposure to wellness initiatives can make all the difference. Spencer is in a food desert, explains Principal Tracie Sanlin, so most kids don't have access to a variety of fresh, healthy foods at home.
"So we're working with our kitchen staff and families on taste tests of foods the kids may not have seen or tried yet that are reasonably priced, easy to access and they can have at home," says Sanlin. "We were downstairs doing yoga today as part of the initiative and the work we did, so we can tell that we are actually teaching them life skills to improve their health and wellness with the work that we're doing with partners like Action for Healthy Kids."
The Action for Healthy Kids partnership with CSX plays an invaluable role in making these projects a reality at Spencer, Sanlin notes. The Jacksonville, Florida-based rail transportation company has been involved in the program since 2013, working to improve physical activity environments in schools. This year, they're working with 287 schools in 12 states, reaching over 140,000 students.
Hundreds of volunteers participate in Get in the Action events, which invite the community to help make improvements at local schools, like painting games onto the asphalt in playgrounds.
"Giving back to the local environments and the local communities that we serve is very important to CSX because not only do our trains run through their neighborhoods, but also our workers, our workers' families, our workers' kids live in these neighborhoods in which we travel," says Kevin Robero, a CSX employee in the Chicago metro area. "We want to let them know that to have an active lifestyle, and have a healthy lifestyle, is very important."
To learn more about Action for Healthy Kids and how to get involved, visit actionforhealthykids.org.