Syracuse Creates Partnerships to Support Health and Wellness

Syracuse, NY | January 2015 | By National Recreation and Park Association

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The City of Syracuse Department of Parks and Recreation was one of 50 agencies to receive an NRPA and the Walmart Foundation’s Out-of-School Time Programs grants last year. Syracuse was able to use the funding to support programming by building partnerships within the community aimed at engaging more children and families as well as encouraging the adoption of healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards within their program sites. The City of Syracuse saw much success through these partnerships and in turn was able to implement new standards that will continue to shape the future programming of the department and positively affect the health of the community.

To reinforce the importance of adopting nutrition standards in their out-of-school time programs, Syracuse formed a partnership with the Cornell Cooperative Extension. The Extension has committed to offering regular, on-going trainings for the parks and recreation staff, with a focus on healthy meal or snack planning and on modeling more healthful behaviors. The Extension presented to program staff during their summer staff orientation and again in the fall for their after-school staff training in preparation for the school year. This collaboration has been beneficial in enlightening staff and incorporating nutrition education into programs more consistently.

In addition to partnering with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the City of Syracuse also targeted those directly involved with the program. They formed committees of program supervisors, staff, parents and youth representatives to evaluate their programs and encourage better health and wellness standards. The committees have been helpful in addressing the needs of the community, embracing the changes that need to be made, and celebrating the successes. Throughout the year, the committee was instrumental in implementing new policies regarding healthy vending, snacks and beverages that are served at celebratory events (special events, birthday parties, etc.), and have expressed a continued interest in monitoring health and wellness as a factor in all community programs. In addition, one of the most important benefits has been that the meetings have provided an open forum for those most directly involved in the programs, giving them a chance to express their opinions and build a relationship with other community members.

Syracuse has also taken steps to implement physical activity standards within their programs. Through the continued use of the OrganWise Guys (OWG) Wheel of Health, and by using the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Program, staff members have countless opportunities to choose from when it comes to engaging in physical activity. Program staff is charged with including at least 30-minutes of physical activity into schedules each day of their after-school programs. In addition, the City of Syracuse has brought in the Fit Kids program that incorporates certified fitness trainers into targeted sites after-school twice a week facilitating fitness building games and activities. To encourage physical activity outside of school and city programs, the department has hosted a Fitness and Wellness Family night each December. This past year, program youth and family members went to the Magnarelli Recreation Center to participate in a full night of active games, a soccer clinic put on by their local professional team (Syracuse Silver Knights), and healthy snacking demonstrations from the Cornell Cooperative Extension that included elements of the OWG curriculum. Parents had an opportunity first-hand to experience the programming that takes place during after-school sessions and were enlightened by the healthy eating and physical activity demonstrations.

The City of Syracuse Parks and Recreation Department has been a strong voice for the community when it comes to health and wellness. From engaging parents and care-givers, to implementing healthy eating and physical activity standards, to working with community organizations dedicated to nutrition education, the City of Syracuse continues to commit to health each and every day.