Archive for September, 2011

SPARK & GenMove Team-Up To Move Generations to Better Health!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

SPARK is proud to announce a partnership with GenMove, a fellow movement and health education solutions provider out of Charleston, South Carolina.

GenMove, now a SPARK “Recommended Resource”, was developed by the creators of Socci, the multi-sport system used by youth in schools, adapted PE, after-school programs, and early childhood education since 2005. This partnership hopes to foster greater access to innovative and versatile equipment for schools and community-based organizations nationwide.

SPARK Executive Director Paul Rosengard adds,”The GenMove team provides an excellent supplemental product for all physical activity providers. Their games align support SPARK’s core philosophy by being inclusive, highly active, and fun for kids.

GenMove’s innovative product lineup is designed to level the playing field and enpower students of all abilities to enjoy physical activity and good health.

  • The GenMove goal, the only four-sided goal used in education, allows for multiple scoring opportunities so =all students experience success and increased self-confidence.
  • Adjustable for better grip or better foot control, GenMove balls can be easily inflated or deflated to help students develop particular sport skills.
  • Additional products include colorful polyspots, noodles, and domes that can be incorporated into GenMove programming or other classroom activities in a variety of ways.

Click Here to browse or purchase our featured GenMove products.

For more information on GenMove please visit

Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge grants available to states

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
States: Apply for the RTT-ELC funding

The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund (RTT-ELC) grant competition will focus on improving early learning and development programs for young children by supporting States’ efforts to:

  1. Increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs
  2. Design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services
  3. Ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood.

Deadline: October 19, 2011

Awards Announced: December 2011

Estimated Range of Awards: $50 million-$100 million

Eligibility: States (Governor’s office).

Please see links below for more information:


SPARK can help you meet the requirements outlined in the RTT-ELC application!

SPARK Early Childhood (EC) is an evidence-based Physical Activity program targeting children ages 3-5 that has been proven to WORK and LAST.


Click Here to download a detailed document that will explain how you can use SPARK to align with the goals of the RTT-ELC. This document includes information that shows:

  1. Role of Physical Activity in Early Learning
  2. SPARK alignment with RTT-ELC Priorities & Focused Investment Areas
  3. SPARK Deliverables, Evaluation and Assessment

Next Steps:

Contact SPARK. We’ll ask you a few questions, learn about your current early childhood programs, and listen to your vision for creating a healthier community. Together, we’ll create a program that will WORK and LAST.

The SPARK Programs

1-800-SPARK-PE (772-7573)   – –

Healthier Fast Food Options

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Ten years ago someone would have looked at you crazy if you mentioned a healthy fast food option. Today, fast food chains need to offer a healthy choice if they want to compete for the business of health-conscious families. In many places, restaurants are required to list the ingredients and nutritional value of each menu item, giving the diner more control over what they eat. Some of the most popular chains have introduced new menus with healthier choices and other startup companies are looking to change the way we think about fast food completely.

Tips for making healthy choices

  • Scan the Menu: Go for the items with leaner meats and more vegetables. Stay away from fried and battered items; they have the highest amount of fat and calories by a long shot.
  • Free Water: America has a terrible soda habit, all too often opting for the super size meal with a large soda. Skip “making it a meal” unless side options include some fruit or a fresh salad, and trade out soda for a free cup of water. You will save yourself 500 calories (and a couple bucks) and hydrate instead of dehydrate in the process.
  • Salad Dressing: Most salads will automatically come with fatty dressings like ranch or creamy Caesar. Opt for a simple vinaigrette if available; by doing so, you’ll save yourself from a dose of saturated fat and get a heart-healthy serving of olive oil instead. If that’s not an option, just go light on the dressing—it’s not meant to drench the salad. Ordering a salad in the first place is a huge step in the right direction towards healthier fast food.
  • Chew Slowly: Fast food is easy to eat quickly and you are bound to eat more if you eat too fast. Chew your food slowly, enjoy every bite, and by the time you finish a couple small items you will feel as full as you would if you downed two big burgers. It takes your brain a little while to tell your stomach it’s full, so savor slowly and stop when you feel about 80% full – ten minutes later you’ll be glad you don’t feel bloated.
  • No Salt: Speaking of bloat, you can always ask for no salt on your food and decrease your overall sodium intake. There is no way to get completely around the sodium (and it’s fine in moderation) but making the choice to special order your food without it helps. Remember the saying, “where salt goes, water flows.” Too much salt causes you to retain water.

“Healthier” Menu Items for Kids (if you HAVE to eat fast food)

  • Subway’s Veggie Delite sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Subway’s roast beef sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Burger King’s macaroni and cheese
  • KFC’s grilled chicken drumstick
  • Sonic’s Junior burger
  • Chic-Fil-A’s char grilled chicken sandwich
  • Taco Bell’s Fresco bean burrito

5 Healthy Fast Food Restaurant Options
Note – SPARK does not endorse any of these restaurants and we believe preparing meals at home is the easiest way to ensure healthy eating. But we understand home-cooked meals are not always an option

  1. Panera Bread: The sit-down soup, sandwich, and salad joint only takes a second to have your food prepared but it comes out fresher and healthier than any other quick serving establishment. There isn’t a drive through, but you could probably get in and out of there just as fast as your local burger joint. Order a veggie sandwich with an apple on the side for a healthy meal (but even the potato chips are only 160 calories with 1 gram of saturated fat!).
  2. Noodles and Company: A healthy version of Asian fast food, and delicious at that. They use soybean oil for cooking, hormone- and antibiotic-free lean meats, and even organic tofu. The entire family will enjoy dining out at one of the healthiest restaurants available; but stay away from the calorie-rich desserts.
  3. Chipotle: Mexican food is a staple in many people’s diets but usually that involves fatty, carb-loaded, high-caloric meals. Chipotle put a new twist on the Mexican meal by serving up fresh ingredients with low-calorie, high-protein options. If you order the burrito bowl and skip the rice, you can cut a ton of the waist-unfriendly and blood-sugar spiking carbs (white flour tortilla, white rice) out of the meal and still feel satisfied. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean you have to walk out of the restaurant hungry; Chipotle serves large portions. Black beans are a great source of protein and antioxidants, a good dollop of guacamole provides heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and fresh salsa and romaine lettuce serve up a ton of vitamins and minerals.
  4. McDonald’s: Not many people expect America’s most popular fast food chain to make the top five list, but they have taken action in response to the increase in demand for healthier options. The kid’s meal now offers apple dippers instead of fries and juice instead of soda, giving your kids the fast food they want but at a much lower level of calories, sugar, and fat. The snack wraps and salad with Paul Newman vinaigrette dressing are great options for adults who are on the run. If you’re looking for breakfast, the Egg McMuffin (no sausage) has only 300 calories.
  5. In-N-Out: If you are lucky enough to live on in the West Coast of the U.S. you probably already know about the famous burger chain. All the ingredients are fresh and the potatoes are diced right in front of your eyes before being dipped in canola oil (a healthier choice of oil). They are some of the best tasting fast food burgers and have the highest amount of nutrients compared to other burgers. Order the hamburger without spread or cheese and add your own portion of ketchup for sauce if you want the menu item with the least amount of calories. The little-known “secret menu” includes a grilled cheese (for those avoiding red meat, but it still comes with all the veggies) and a burger sans bun, wrapped in crispy lettuce instead.

How Has the Childhood Obesity Rate Changed in the Last 30 Years?

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Child obesity is a modern-day epidemic. The last 30 years have been especially devastating as the percentage of obese children skyrocketed to more than double what it was in the 80s. Thousands of non-profits, communities, schools, and political leaders have taken notice and started working to reverse the damage; but it is no easy feat—America’s lifestyle has changed, and we must get to the root of the problem to change it all.

Statistics: Child obesity has been closely measured since the early 1980s and the data shows us just how serious the problem is. The rate of obesity in children ages 6-11 increased from 6.5 to 19.6 percent between the years 1980 and 2008. In just 28 years, obesity nearly tripled in all age groups under 18 years old. Between 16 to 33 percent of adolescents are now obese, meaning in certain parts of the United States one in three kids is obese. Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado all have a child and adolescent obesity rate of fewer than 10% while Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Delaware have a rate of over 20 percent. This data is from 2005-2007, but the numbers have moved in the wrong direction since then.

Risks and Affects: Obese kids are at risk for numerous health problems and diseases. Obesity-related medical problems include type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and disability. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. With between 100,000-400,000 obesity-related deaths per year and an estimated healthcare expenditure of $117 billion, obesity has surpassed health-care costs related to smoking and drinking. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint problems, sleep apnea, and psychological/social problems are just the beginning of what an obese child can expect to deal with.

The causes and solutions to such a widespread epidemic are complex and run deeper than we’re able to cover in a brief blog post. However, we’ve described some of the main factors below to help you get a sense of the main issues surrounding this crisis.

Causes for obesity are vast, and often many different factors and special circumstances contribute. Below are just a few factors that can cause obesity:

  • Family Habits: Children are ten times more likely to be obese if both parents are obese. It isn’t always the family habits causing the children to be obese, but they can have a direct impact on the problem.
  • Food Choices: Fast food, vending machines, and the cheap snacks from the store are what kids have grown accustomed to and eat on a daily basis. Easy access to unhealthy food makes it easy for parents to feed their kids for cheap and also let the kids have what they want, but that doesn’t make it a healthy choice.
  • TV & Video Games: Studies have shown a direct correlation between the amount of TV watched and levels of obesity. The most obese adolescents are the ones who spent the most time in front of the television. Children today spend on average 25 percent of their day watching TV, playing video games, or spending time on the computer. For each additional hour a kid watches TV, they will probably consume 167 extra calories.
  • Fast Food: The American stereotype of eating too much fast food is backed up by several studies. Americans spent $6 billion on fast food in 1970 and $142 billion in 2006. Fast food is always easier and often cheaper than cooking healthy meals at home, which is why many American families eat out multiple times per week, sometimes every day.
  • Calorie Count: The poor food choices in combination with too much TV and video games have result in kids taking in more calories than they are burning every single day. That is the basic foundation of weight gain and must be reversed in order to keep our kids healthy.

Solutions for childhood obesity are also varied and are dependent on many different factors. Here are a few ideas for kick-starting a healthier lifestyle:

  • Physical Activity: Physical activity must increase to an hour per day just so kids can burn off the extra calories. Physical education programs at school have the potential to influence a kid’s perspective on exercise and sports, and families can enroll their children in after school sports. Even just taking the kids down to the park to toss a Frisbee will make an impact. Make moving fun, and your kids will learn to choose an active over sedentary lifestyle.
  • Healthier Choices: If you happen to be eating fast food, choose a healthier item on the menu with less calories, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. At home, ramp up the amount of vegetables and teach your kids to make their own healthy food choices. If the kids feel like they have a say in the decision, they will enjoy the cooking experience and be motivated to eat healthily. Schools must take out the junk food and replace it with healthy snacks and lunches to help in the fight against obesity.
  • Education and Participation: Health education at school, home, and in the community will teach the kids to make their own healthy decisions. School PE programs should focus on fun activities that everyone participates in. The community can promote healthy events and get the kids involved, the parents can teach the kids to cook, and kids can learn about the risks and benefits of a healthy versus poor diet. Safe parks to play in, safe bike trails, and community events like a trash clean-up get everyone on their feet and enjoying the great outdoors.