The U.S. Department of Education has awarded 67 grants totaling more than $33 million to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations.
The grants will help implement comprehensive, integrated physical activity and nutrition programs for their students through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP). Four Oklahoma groups were funded including Schools for Healthy Lifestyles (SHL).
SHL will receive $2.7 million over the next three years to support their efforts in educating and encouraging elementary students, teachers, and families across the state to make healthy lifestyle choices. The grant is the largest received by the organization and is the largest funded in the state. Schools for Healthy Lifestyles will be reaching more than 35,000 students in 63 schools during the 2014-2015 school year.
"We are thrilled that our grant was funded. To be recognized this way is an honor, but more than that it allows us to offer so many awesome programs, support, and equipment to our schools," said Lindsi Lemons, Program Director. "Our ultimate goal is to have every child in Oklahoma living a healthy lifestyle – aware of the decisions they make regarding exercise, nutrition, hygiene, and safety. If we can do that, we will be a success."
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, SHL was formed in 1997 with the sole purpose of addressing Oklahoma's declining health status. Designated as a part of the nation's "Stroke Belt," Oklahoma currently has the 5th highest rate of adult obesity in the nation (31.1%). Unfortunately, CDC projects existing trends in Oklahoma will increase the adult obesity in 2030 to 66.4%, second only to Mississippi (66.7%) and surpassing the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, 1
The $2.7 million grant is a good start to helping curb these trends at the earliest level. SHL students will benefit from increased programming, additional health evaluations, and a more focused health initiative in their schools.
PEP grants are intended to assist programs like SHL with initiating, expanding, or enhancing physical education and nutrition education programs. Through these programs, it is expected that students will develop an appreciation for lifelong, healthy nutrition and physical education habits, and make progress toward meeting their state standards for physical education.
"A healthy, active lifestyle is an important ingredient of academic success," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "These grants are a resource to help schools and communities develop programs that teach students the importance of staying active and developing healthy lifestyles. We need more states, districts, schools and communities to recognize the critically important role of physical education in improving student engagement and achievement."
SHL's mission is to promote and maintain healthy lifestyles among students, families and educators. Its five focus areas include: physical activity and fitness; nutrition education and awareness; tobacco use prevention; safety and injury prevention; and oral health education.
SHL serves 59 elementary schools across the state and partners with more than 50 public and private health-related organizations to accomplish its mission. Dr. John Bozalis retired from the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic serves as Chairman of the Board. For questions or more information, please visit www.healthyschoolsok.org.