Professional Athletes Unite to Fight Childhood Obesity
Established in 2008, ’nPlay was created to unite the athletes of the sports world to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. An idea born out channel bouncing between a CNN report on childhood obesity and the NY Yankees game, four partners with backgrounds in marketing, advertising, law, and management came together to create the non-profit whose mission is “Making Kids Healthy and Ready to Learn.” The addition of principal Dr. Chris Lineberry in 2009 helped shape the direction of the organization’s programming. Dr. Lineberry, who is now the co-executive director, had successfully helped multiple schools turn themselves around by integrating health and wellness into all parts of the school day. At the center of that strategy was the integration of physical activity and nutrition education into core subjects. It was Chris’ work along with inclusion of professional athletes that prompted the USDA-Food Nutrition Services to partner with the non-profit to help schools meet the criteria of the HealthierUS Schools Challenge.
Says Founder/Executive Director Eric Cohen, “Children are at their most impressionable when they are younger. That is why we believe the earlier we integrate physical activity and nutrition education into as many areas of their lives as possible, the more likely that living a healthy lifestyle will become a habit that follows them for a lifetime.”
One major component of this is integrating physical activity and nutrition education into the core subjects. Another primary component is helping principals and teachers “find time without adding time.” With all of the pressure on testing scores, some of the first things cut from the school day are physical education and activity. The research definitively shows that the more active a child is, the more they can focus in class, are better behaved, and are healthier overall. ’nPlay shows principals and teachers how to creatively schedule the school day so there is enough physical education and activity while not taking away from the classroom. Sprinkle in appearances from the ’nPlay athletes to help keep the teachers and students motivated and you have a formula that is proven to work.
Now in the spring of 2014, ’nPlay has started working with the USDA-FNS on the Summer Meals program to help make sure children are being fed as well as being active over the summer when school is out of session. “Childhood hunger is just as much a cause of obesity as overeating and lack of physical activity,” say Cohen. “Whatever it takes to turn the tide, ’nPlay and our athletes are playing to win. Winning is healthier kids that will outlive their parents.”