Entering a packed auditorium at Chicago’s Pulaski Elementary School in early December, students were understandably excited to see NFL football stars and other VIPs on-hand to announce a renewed national commitment to help kids develop strong fitness and nutrition habits for life through the GENYOUth Foundation’s Fuel-Up to Play 60 program. The students left the room feeling pumped after getting fit with healthy activities, eating healthy snacks, and receiving a dose of inspiration from their special guests and representatives from the program’s key partners, including the National Dairy Council, ED, USDA and HHS.
Research shows that healthy students are better students,” said Alexis Glick, CEO of the GENYOUth Foundation, which developed FUTP60 five years ago. The program is now in place at more than 73,000 schools nationwide – including Pulaski – where it provides funding and other support to increase access to healthy foods and incorporate fitness activities, and is aligned with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity.
On hand at Pulaski to express his organization’s continued pride in the FTUP60 program, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urged students to recognize the vital efforts that helped propel former Chicago Bears stars Otis Wilson, Anthony Morgan and Hunter Hillenmeyer – all in attendance – towards success.
“These guys didn’t get where they are by not working hard. They didn’t get where they are by not taking care of themselves,” he said. “We don’t want any of you to miss opportunities in life by not developing good habits now.”
Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher added a dose of urgency to the fun event, noting that the first major research alerting the nation to the growing childhood obesity problem was released under his watch, in 2001. He compared it to the release of the first major study showing the harmful impact of cigarette smoke in 1964, when more than 50 percent of American’s were smokers: While tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the U.S., its use has been cut in half, since then.
“I hope it won’t take 50 years for us to start making a real difference with childhood obesity,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Education is committed to supporting healthy and active students through Let’s Move, Let’s Read activities, Carol M. White Physical Education Program grants and the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School and District Sustainability Awards.
Julie Ewart is the director of communications and outreach for the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Department of Education