Creating Healthy Futures

Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 4:56 a.m. PT

Originally published: March 5, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. PT

Did you know that 80% of U.S. children do not meet the minimum dosage of physical activity – 60 minutes each day? And that children, on average, spend 7 hours a day in front of some type of screen? In fact, the current generation may be the first in 200 years to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, with the main culprit being obesity caused by lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

In 2011, along with YMCAs across the country, we made a commitment to First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to become the nation’s healthiest childcare provider and help end the childhood obesity epidemic.  By adopting and implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in our programs, we are pledging to educate kids about healthy lifestyles, model healthy behaviors and cultivate environments that make it easier for kids to make healthier choices.

The HEPA standards are based, in part, on years of research done in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST) and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST)

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards

  • Role Modeling: Y staff will model healthy eating and active living.

  • Family Engagement: Engage parents/caregivers using informational materials and/or activities focused on healthy eating and physical activity a minimum of once a quarter.

  • Physical Activity: Ensure that children engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity for half-day programs and 60 minutes for full-day programs, including a mix of moderate and vigorous physical activities that promote bone and muscle strengthening. Play will take place daily outdoors whenever possible.

  • Screen Time: Eliminate screen time for children under two years of age. For children over two, screen time is limited to less than 30 minutes per day for children in half-day programs and less than one hour per day for those in full-day programs.

  • Food: Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal and snack. Children serve themselves (family-style). No partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), fried or pre-fried foods. Serve whole grains when grains are served. Serve foods free of sugar as one of the first three ingredients or less than eight grams of added sugar. 

  • Beverages: Offer water at the table during every meal and accessible at all times. Serve only water and plain, low-fat (one percent) or non-fat milk.