YMCA takes on childhood obesity epidemic teaching healthy lifestyles

October 7, 2009

Valley of the Sun YMCA After School Programs

PHOENIX – As the largest provider of childcare in the United States, YMCAs understand that parents are looking for after school care that combines a safe environment with fun and structure. The Valley of the Sun YMCA’s After School programs aim to keep youth motivated, and to teach them how to develop a healthy spirit, mind, and body. Fun and enriching programs for youth throughout the school year include: nutrition programs, physical education programs, tutoring opportunities, and Character Counts programs.

According to the After School Alliance, nearly 15 million children in the United States are unsupervised after school between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day – in Arizona, 30 percent of children are responsible for taking care of themselves. During these hours, youth are at a greater risk of involvement in crime, drug abuse and other destructive behaviors.

“At the Valley of the Sun YMCA, we recognize one of the key health issues facing our communities today – the increased incidence of childhood obesity. So one of our after school programs offer parents a ‘heads up’ in teaching their kids how to live a healthy lifestyle by utilizing a Food and Fun curriculum. Created by the “Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity,” this creative teaching tool of 10 units includes games, learning activities, and even recipes to reinforce healthy food choices and encourage movement and activity.

Each of the unit’s key messages is provided to parents through emails, handouts, and newsletter articles so that families can continue healthy habits at home. The single most effective way to treat – and prevent – childhood obesity is to adopt healthier habits for the entire family.”

“We also provide youth with the skills they need to achieve academic success through our tutoring and structured study time, and our Character Counts Program teaches kids how to interact with their peers and develop interpersonal skills – skills that are often lost when left unsupervised every day,” says Jen Hewitt, Child Care Resource Director, Valley of the Sun YMCA. “By nurturing their potential, we give youth the confidence to learn and grow to be competent and responsible individuals.”

The Valley of the Sun YMCA is a nonprofit organization and all of the YMCA Child Care programs are licensed by the AZ Department of Health Services, as well as certified DES providers. Within the Valley of the Sun YMCA After School Program, we serve approximately 1,500 youth per day in 64 different after school sites.

Nationally, JCPenney and the JCPenney Afterschool Fund have supported YMCA after school programs since 1999. The JCPenney Afterschool Fund awards grants to YMCAs across the country, enabling them to provide children with safe, life-enriching after school programs that inspire them to be smart, strong and socially responsible. During the 2008-2009 school year JCPenney Afterschool Fund grants to local YMCAs provided financial assistance to more than 10,000 students nationwide.

To learn more about After School Programs at the Valley of the Sun YMCA, contact your local YMCA or visit the website at valleyymca.org.