Improving childhood health through after-school program

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Funding from the ISA Foundation supports healthy eating and living project at San Marcos Elementary School in Chandler Unified School District. 

Official grant name

Healthy Eating and Living in Phoenix

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Principal investigator

Pamela Hodges Kulinna

Direct sponsor

Isagenix, ISA Foundation

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The challenge

Childhood obesity is a critical issue in the U.S., with Hispanic youth facing a higher prevalence than white youth by nearly 12%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to budget rescissions in some Arizona schools, there are fewer physical education teachers and limited academic time devoted to physical education and health.

The approach

Healthy Eating and Living in Phoenix, initiated by Professor Pamela Hodges Kulinna and through a partnership with San Marcos Elementary School, addressed these shortcomings through an after-school program designed to improve student health. The project provided additional physical activity, social and emotional learning activities, and healthy eating programming to students at the Title I elementary school in Chandler, Arizona. The school’s student population is 75% Hispanic, 12% white, 6% Black, 4% two or more races, 3% Asian or Pacific Islander and 1% Native American, and 90% of students are eligible for a free or reduced lunch. 

The after-school program met once a week for five weeks and focused on students in Grades 3–6. During each 70-minute session, the 67 students participated in:

  • Activities with a focus on motor skill development

  • Nutrition knowledge activities, such as crossword puzzles and bingo, while eating a healthy snack

  • Social and emotional learning activities, centered around goal setting and cooperative learning

Kulinna oversaw the program while ASU students participated as facilitators and two of the school’s teachers were on-site to promote program sustainability.


Findings and impact

Observational data suggests students improved their motor skill of an overhand throw, offsetting COVID-19 learning loss in motor skill development. Students became familiar with MyPlate, the nutrition guide published by the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and most were able to create a healthy, balanced meal at the end of the program. Students enjoyed the cooperative learning activities and worked well together across grade levels.