DC Kids Get Active at Let’s Move! DC.

Ensuring students benefit from healthy eating, physical activity, and improved health outcomes is a central goal for District of Columbia Public Schools officials. To facilitate this, the school system celebrated its fourth annual Growing Healthy Schools Week, and held its second annual Let’s Move! DC Children and Families Health Expo at the Deanwood Recreation Center in Northeast D.C.

Both events were sponsored by the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and held in early October.

According to a statement from the superintendent’s office, Growing Healthy Schools Week is an initiative aimed at engaging public schools to grow and eat fresh foods. This year, 59 D.C. traditional public and public charter schools participated in the week through classroom lessons, a school garden bike and bus tour, and field trips to teach students about the connections between food, their health, and the environment.

The Children and Family Health Expo immediately followed to show parents, students, and families that physical activity can be both fun and healthy.

“I salute OSSE for putting together a fun, well-attended event,” said D.C. Councilmember and Health Committee Chair Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7). “Students require a rigorous curriculum, healthy nutrition and physical activity for their overall success.”

The lack of physical activity and nutritional options is a prevalent issue in D.C.’s African-American and low-income communities. According to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, approximately 14 percent of D.C.’s low-income preschoolers, defined as children ages 2 to 4, and 15 percent of teens are obese—a leading trigger for diabetes and other health issues.

Owner of Coach G Fitness, Gerard Burley, hosted a special version of his boot camp called “Sweat at the Recreation Center.” He said he wants to increase education and awareness in low-income communities around the benefits of being physically active.

“With gyms and studios on almost every corner it seems like fitness is a way of life in more affluent areas,” Burley told the AFRO on Oct. 13. “But it is important to get the word out to all D.C. communities.”

School officials said they were pleased with the outcome of the second Let’s Move! event.

“The District of Columbia government took a one-city approach to support this effort,” superintendent’s office spokeswoman Victoria Holmes said. “New partnerships included Department of Health, the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Deputy Mayor of Education’s My Schools DC team.”

Both events highlight the superintendent’s focus on improving health outcomes for D.C. students and families. In addition to the events, the office will engage in a broader community engagement plan, and join other district agencies in the implementation of the Healthy Tots Act, legislation passed and funded in June as a part of the Budget Support Act.

The act requires that eligible child development centers and child care homes participate in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, which pays for nutritious meals and snacks for the children who are enrolled. The act also provides $3.2 million in local funding for child care facilities participating in the program.

“Low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products,” Holmes said,  “This initiative brought a full service farmers’ market to the community free to all attendees.”