In the culmination of a 5-year-long process, the Norwalk Health Department has trained its 11th after school site to deliver the successful Fit Kids program independently. On Thursday May 24, the Health Department celebrated the hard work of Marvin Elementary School’s After the Bell staff by presenting physical activity equipment, education supplies, and copies of the Fit Kids curriculum—all the materials needed to run the program themselves.
Fit Kids uses fun, interactive lessons in after school programs to teach children about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. Students learn the basics about food groups and their nutritional value, gain exposure to different ways to be active, and taste various foods to learn more about what they enjoy.
The Health Department developed Fit Kids in partnership with the Exercise Science programs at Sacred Heart University and Norwalk Community College. Program evaluations since the program began about 10 years ago show nutrition knowledge increases over the course of the program, and feedback from parents and school staff is very positive.
To make sure Fit Kids could be sustained over time, in 2013, the Health Department began training and equipping after school staff to deliver Fit Kids themselves.
“We have been extremely fortunate to receive support from our funding partners over the years to deliver Fit Kids, but we want to make sure that the program can continue indefinitely and that the after school staff feels a sense of ownership,” explained Theresa Argondezzi, Health Educator at the Health Department. “With this approach, each site adopts Fit Kids as part of its standard operations, ensuring its sustainability and enabling the Health Department to focus more on other emerging community health needs.”
This important work to integrate health and wellness into after school programs is funded by United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, through funds from the Pepperidge Farm Corporate Giving Campaign, as part of the Campbell’s Healthy Communities program.
“United Way congratulates everyone on the implementation of the Fit Kids program,” said Cathy DeCesare, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at United Way of Coastal Fairfield County. “It is a wonderful example of city and community partners working together to implement a program that is now a part of the after school experience at all elementary schools. We want all our children to be healthy and ready to learn, and Fit Kids helps make that possible.”
Kate Barrett, Senior Manager, Community Affairs, and Campbell Soup Company, explained the importance of weaving strategies like this throughout communities.
“Fit Kids has been an important part of Campbell’s Healthy Communities program in Norwalk, as the program aligns perfectly with our mission to strengthen and empower healthy communities in our Campbell hometowns,” explained Barrett. “We are excited not only to see the program continue to grow and thrive, but become integrated into schools so it is sustained in the future.”
Fit Kids aligns closely with the health and wellness goals outlined in the Greater Norwalk Community Health Improvement Plan, Norwalk Public Schools (NPS) Strategic Operating Plan, the NPS District Wellness Policy, and the work of Norwalk ACTS.