Archive for October, 2014

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation to Rush Past Childhood Obesity with New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas

Partnership aims to decrease “screen-time” and increase physical activity both during school and after school with quality PE programming and community events

SPARK™, provider of the world’s most-researched physical education programs, is partnering with ICAN Foundation to make an immediate impact on the lives of students in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. SPARK and ICAN Foundation will work together to help schools and community centers raise funds or apply for and win grants in order to implement SPARK’s high-quality physical education curricula or afterschool program.

SHAPE America recommends that school-aged children receive at least 60-minutes of physical activity per day. This is hard to achieve if students spend most of the eight-hour school day sitting behind desks. SPARK fights this sedentary school model by making classroom instruction, PE classes and after school programs more physically active. Similarly, the increased amount of time youth spend using electronics is impeding on physical activity after school and on the weekends. Through its community programs and initiatives, ICAN Foundation is helping create more active lifestyles to demonstrate how being active can be fun and rewarding.

“After learning about the similarities of our organizations and the fact that SPARK is the number-one research-based health organization in our country, I knew a partnership was necessary,” said Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back and founder of ICAN Foundation. “This will be a great opportunity for everyone involved, especially the students.”

“Working with ICAN Foundation is the perfect marriage of ideas for SPARK,” said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. “With the foundation’s deep community connections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, and SPARK’s 25 years of experience in schools nationwide, we make a great team. With a joint goal of increasing the amount of physical activity youth receive every day, we know that together we can make an impact on those communities.”

How Can You Help?
Together, ICAN and SPARK will implement research-based programing to help combat childhood obesity in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Your support, partnership, or donation can assist us in our efforts. Please contact us to learn more and support the effort to combat childhood obesity.

Dr. Kymm Ballard
SPARK Partnership Development Manager
(336) 263-3646

Vincent Calabrese
ICAN Foundation
(312) 285-9384

About ICAN Foundation
ICAN Foundation was founded by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back, in response to the ongoing problem with childhood obesity. ICAN Foundation was established to prevent and educate the children and their parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity in the United States.

SPARK is a collection of research-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs for educators serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide. SPARK also helps educators find physical education grants. For more information on SPARK, visit or email or call 1-800-SPARK-PE.

ICAN Foundation-1

What is a Nutrition Ed Tool Box?

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Simply put, it’s a “toolbox” of nutrition education ideas you can fit into day to day practices no matter where you are. Of course the location of your toolbox is up to you. It can be a physical location, or one in cyberspace, but wherever you save your ideas, keep it easy to access on the go.

We often hear back from teachers, physical educators, school nutrition staff and youth leaders about how they tweaked HKC lessons or activity ideas to fit available resources or integrated them with other subject matter. This great feedback is super inspiring, and demonstrates how nutrition education can become a part of day to day practices.

Join the Nutrition Ed Tool Box Challenge to share and learn from others! From our trainings and work with teachers and youth leaders, we hear about how creative minds are meeting the challenge to incorporate nutrition lessons and more physical movement into their classrooms, gyms and cafeterias.

What: To meet the Challenge, send a description of how you integrated a nutrition lesson or project into other subject matter or adapted an existing lesson to fit your resources.

The project or lesson should use credible science-based nutrition content such as Healthy Kids Challenge resources (or those of HKC partners), MyPlate, or USDA nutrition content or guidelines.  The entry could be a lesson or project you have used in the past or one that you are developing.  Use this link for examples, additional information and a submission form.

When: Between October 1 and December 15, 2014

Why: To inspire KidLinks (educators, youth leaders, or others with a connection to kids) to make nutrition education awesome – Appealing and fun, Welcoming and inviting, Easy and simple – we’ll compile and share the ideas entered.

What you gain for meeting the Challenge!

  • A wonderful opportunity learning what others are doing and for building your nutrition tool box
  • Recognition of your creativity
  • For each educator who participates in the Challenge, we’ll send one free electronic copy of either our Healthy Kids Challenge Taste and Learn Recipes or our reproducible Parent Tips.

How to enter: In the spirit of AWE-some, we want to make it EASY for you to share.  Simply complete the easy to use online form.

We have many examples of how those creative minds have successfully met the challenge already, but we need more!

Here are just a few to get your creativity flowing:

Ready to submit your lesson or project? Enter it in the Nutrition Ed Tool Box Challenge Form.

Re-posted with permission from the Healthy Kids Challenge Blog.


Healthy Back to School Lunches

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Beyond PB & J: 5 Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education.kids_lunch

If you feel stuck in the peanut-butter-and-jelly school lunch rut, take a look at these healthy options instead.

Homemade “Lunchables”

Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:

  • Lean protein, like turkey pepperoni or even strips of baked chicken from dinner the night before
  • Low-fat cheese, like mozzarella
  • 100% whole grain crackers
  • A healthy dip, like hummus

You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:

  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Chicken breast
  • Lots of veggies, like carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic, peas, and tomatoes
  • 100% whole grain noodles in fun shapes

Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.

Burritos and Wraps

If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!

Chicken “Nuggets”

Chicken nuggets: as much as kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, their ingredients and preparation are often questionable. Even pre-made frozen nuggets are not always better than the fast-food version. Why not make some delicious homemade chicken nuggets that are far more wholesome than either of these options—and still pretty easy? We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.


Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.

Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?