On January 14, 2014, at the third annual Clinton Foundation's Health Matters conference in La Quinta, California, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, leading food companies, the Boys and Girls Club of America, and the Wasserman Foundation announced a new partnership to improve health and wellness in out-of-school time settings across the country. If you missed the announcement, watch it here.
A young member answers a question correctly during a program session. He’s rewarded with a piece of candy. This scene is all too familiar. In fact, I’ve seen this play out regularly at many events involving children. But not at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, N.H. And soon, with the help of the Alliance, many of the 4,000 Clubs will be following suit.
In Nashua, the Club has committed to implementing Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Culture of Wellness Framework. The goal, for this Club and for all Boys & Girls Clubs, is to develop a culture in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. The Club becomes an environment where healthy choices are supported so comprehensively that youth participants make healthy decisions almost automatically.
To create such a culture in its own Club, the Nashua organization focused on providing members with more nutritious food choices. All foods with trans-fat have been eliminated from the Club’s menus and replaced with healthier options. Energy drinks and high-fat, high-calorie meals, including fast food-like offerings such as hot dogs and chicken nuggets, are no longer on the menu, either.
Instead, members are offered fresh fruit and salads each day. Snacks for special events or club meetings now include such healthy options as fruit smoothies, yogurt parfaits, fruit kebabs or all-fruit popsicles. The Club also prepares its own lunches for field trips, ensuring that members don’t bring less-nutritious options from home. At the same time, the Club is working to help families eat more healthily, too. Healthy nutrition tips are included in a bi-weekly e-newsletter and healthy cooking classes are offered to teens and parents.
In addition to making nutritious options abundant in Clubs, another goal of BGCA’s Culture of Wellness Framework is to communicate to families about the importance of leading healthy lifestyles. By institutionalizing physical activity and healthy eating recommendations in the Club, as well as communicating closely with parents, Clubs can provide members and their families with the keys to healthy living – for life. Given the reach of some four million Club members, their members, their families and their communities, the Boys & Girls Club Movement has an opportunity to make systemic change.
I’m thrilled BGCA is working in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help Clubs continue to implement healthier day-to-day practices, offer Clubs an array of online technical assistance and most importantly - access to its Group Purchasing Organizations. Having the ability to leverage the collective buying power to purchase healthy food products at competitive costs, helps overcome one of the barriers to a healthier environment.