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Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) encompasses a wide range of health-focused practices aimed at getting and keeping kids on a path to healthy behavior and well-being. The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards were created as a way for programs to measure their success in this area. OST programs provide an ideal platform for ensuring that kids engage in physical activity and healthy eating behaviors.

hepa standards

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards (2015)
These standards, created by the National Afterschool Association, establish criteria for assessing program success around providing opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity in OST programs. The image above shows the creation of these standards. You can also view a Webinar on the standards at the bottom of this page. And, you can read a brief summary of the standards here.


key initiatives and organizations

Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative (OSNAP)
Developed by the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center, OSNAP helps OST programs improve program policies and practices related to physical activity and nutrition. Their interactive website offers: tailored action plans, assessment tools, guides for policy writing and implementation, tips, and many other helpful resources. Some key sections to visit include:

  • The OSNAP Change Model: This interactive model takes you through the various stages of creating a healthy OST environment, from assessment to implementation and evaluation.
  • OSNAP Training Materials: This section of their website offers a host of high-quality materials to help you make programmatic changes to improve your program, from a policy writing guide to posters to tip sheets.
  • My Action Plan: By creating a login, you can use this feature of the website to set goals and build a strong action plan.

Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition
The HOST Coalition was created in January 2009 as a collaboration between the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the YMCA of the USA. The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards HOST created in 2010-2011 are evidence-based and are meant to create the healthiest outcomes possible for children in OST programs. This website provides an overview of the importance of HOST, best practices, and key resources. It also links to the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards.

Let's Move! Website
First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to end child obesity includes a variety of resources on ways to promote healthy eating and physical activity in OST environments. On the website are a plethora of resources and initiatives to check out.

Food & Fun Afterschool
This website, designed by Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center and YMCA of the USA, provides 11 teaching units to help programs integrate physical activity and healthy snacks into regular program structure.


important research

Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (2015)
This America After 3PM special report examines parents' expectations of OST programs to keep their kids active and healthy, the levels of parental satisfaction around the food and physical activity provided in OST programs, and the opportunities OST programs have available to improve their physical activity and nutritional offerings.

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Out-of-School Settings (2014)
This issue of New Directions for Youth Development, sponsored by the National AfterSchool Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, explores ways provide healthy environments for children and youth in OST settings. Click the link above to read the Executive Summary, or choose a chapter below:

The Role of Out-of-School Time in Reducing Hunger and Preventing Obesity (2014)
This article from NIOST examines the connection between obesity and childhood hunger. It shares evidence of successes from the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiatives, explains the importance of high-quality education around nutrition, and gives suggestions of ways OST programs can engage youth in the implementation of the HEPA standards.

Healthy Eating in Out-of-School Time: The Promise and The Challenge (2012)
This study, conducted by NIOST, examined the leading factors to affecting physical activity and healthy eating in Out-of-School Time. To do so, they interviewed key OST organizational leaders to understand their perspectives on healthy eating and physical activity. The study draws conclusions around the outcomes of this study and ways to promote greater awareness of and best practices for improving healthy eating and physical activity efforts in OST.

NYSAN Policy Brief: Expanding the Role of Afterschool Programs in Promoting Health and Wellness (2010)
This policy brief from the New York State Afterschool Network looks into the state of youth health and wellness, the role afterschool programs should play in promoting health and wellness, and existing programs and initiatives involved in these efforts. It also provides policy recommendations.


strategies to integrate host elements

Creating Healthier Environments: Strategies and Examples for Afterschool and Summer Programs, Including 21st Century Community Learning Centers (2013)
This article, featured in ExpandED Minds Compendium, examines the unique role afterschool and summer programs can play in fostering healthier lifestyles for youth. It gives concrete strategies to reduce hunger and combat obesity, explains the HOST Coalition, and provides additional resources.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth (2012)
This report looks into interventions that can improve youth physical activity in five different settings, from schools to a variety of out-of-school settings. It also addresses the need for policy change.

Changing Lives, Saving Lives: A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Exemplary Practices in Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Food Security in Afterschool Programs (2010)
This guide from the Healthy Behaviors Initiative shares research-driven practices that OST programs can use to develop a strong plan to integrate health-driven initiatives into their programs. It gives tools for developing action agendas and assessing progress in order to help promote healthy lifestyles in children's lives.

Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies: Best Practices for Creating a Healthy Child Care environment (2010)
This action guide from the Connecticut State Department of Education helps programs navigate the policy environment, providing recommendations related to key policies surrounding a healthy child care environment. It also provides a background on how local policy about this topic is created.


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Have a resource you want to share? See something you've created fitting well in the Toolkit?

Email your Out-of-School Time reports, publications, best practices, case studies, blog articles, videos, media mentions, etc. to submissions@unitedway.org. We will contact you if we are featuring your resource in the OST Toolkit.