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collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-03</hide>March 2017 ‎(2)
3/29/2017 3:53 PM


For the best health, youth need 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but only a fraction of youth meet that target. For example, in 2015, only one in five Alaska high school students got 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

For good health, even one sugary drink a day is too much, but almost half of Alaska youth say they drank at least one sugary drink — such as a soda or sports drink — every single day.

A lack of daily activity and daily consumption of sugary drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Today, too many Alaska high school students are overweight or obese.

We know all of this about Alaska teens because, like most other states, Alaska participates in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS is a paper and pencil survey of Alaska students in public traditional and alternative high schools. Alternative schools teach students who face higher risks and benefit from a non-traditional school setting. The voluntary, anonymous survey is a joint project between the Alaska Departments of Health and Social Services and Education and Early Development, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school districts, and staff.

The YRBS collects information about Alaska teens, including their behaviors that affect health. Students across the state complete the YRBS in odd-numbered years, with the 2017 YRBS taking place right now in high schools from Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to Ketchikan. About 7,000 high school students from about 30 school districts participate in the survey every other year.

“Many different organizations rely on the YRBS, including state programs, school districts, tribal organizations, and statewide and community coalitions,” said Kate Oliver, statewide coordinator for the Alaska YRBS Program. “These organizations use YRBS results for needs assessments, to design and evaluate programs, and to apply for grant funding that supports projects to improve the health and wellness of Alaska youth.”

The statewide YRBS results focus on the health and risk behaviors of both traditional and alternative high school students in Alaska. In addition, many school districts choose to conduct their own YRBS to give them information about their districts’ students. Alaska results can be compared with national YRBS data to better understand how Alaska’s doing, and historical data from the YRBS can be used to assess the risk behaviors of Alaska teens over time.

In 2015, YRBS results revealed important information about the physical activity level, time spent in front of computers and televisions, sugary drink consumption, and body weights of Alaska teens.

Physical Activity
In 2015, 21% of Alaska traditional high school students got the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and even fewer (16%) Alaska alternative high school students met this mark. Among both groups, a higher percentage of males than females were physically active every day. Compared to U.S. traditional high school students, fewer Alaska students met the 60-minutes-a-day target. There hasn’t been a significant change in daily physical activity in over five years.
Screen Time
In 2015, one in three Alaska teens (traditional and alternative high school students) spent three or more hours playing video and computer games or using a computer for something other than school work on an average school day. Compared to the United States, fewer Alaska teens spend as much time in front of a screen, but Alaska is still seeing a concerning trend. Since 2007, the percentage of traditional high school students using these devices for three hours or more every day has increased significantly.
Sugary Drink Consumption
Forty-six percent of traditional high school students consumed at least one sugary drink, such as a soda or sports drink, every day in 2015. Over half (55%) of Alaska alternative high school students consumed at least one sugary drink each day. 
Overweight and Obesity
In 2015, 17% of traditional high school students were overweight and 14% were obese, which was similar to national YRBS results. However, a significantly higher percentage of Alaska alternative high school students were obese (23%), as compared to traditional high school students.
Are you interested in the results of the 2017 Alaska YRBS? Watch for a preliminary report in the winter of 2017. A full 2017 YRBS report will be published in 2018. If you’d like to learn more about the Alaska YRBS, visit
3/13/2017 9:04 AM

140605 KTVA Studio-9961 web.jpgMaking small shifts in our food choices can add up over time. This year's theme for National Nutrition Month® in March inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits – one forkful at a time. So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, Put Your Best Fork Forward to help find your healthy eating style.

“Healthy eating should be enjoyable and ‘doable’ for your entire life”, says Diane Peck, registered dietitian nutritionist with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Focus on eating healthy foods that you like and being active to help stay healthy and manage your weight.”

Think nutrient-rich, rather than "good" or "bad" foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Here are a few tips for making smart food choices:

• Choose healthy drinks. Drink water or low-fat milk, instead of sugary drinks. For variety, add fresh or frozen fruit to a glass or pitcher of cold water, try unsweetened hot or cold caffeine-free tea, or add a splash of 100% fruit juice to club soda or seltzer water.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables. All forms of fruits and vegetables provide healthful benefits – fresh, frozen, canned and dried. Traditional foods –​ such as berries, sourdock, and beach greens – are especially high in nutrients.

• Focus on variety. Choose a variety of healthful foods in all food groups to help reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains, such as oats and 100% whole wheat bread; healthy proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.

• Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and may contribute to overall good health. Alaskans should select foods that are high in vitamin D, such as Alaska salmon and vitamin D fortified non- or low-fat milk, and should talk with their health care providers about vitamin D and the risks and benefits of supplementation.

• Play every day. Choose activities that you enjoy and want to do each day. Remember, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Find fun activities that get the whole family moving, like sledding or going for a walk. has resources to help you achieve your healthy eating goals this month, and all year long.

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits. Play games, download tip sheets, view recipe videos and more at

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-02</hide>February 2017 ‎(3)
2/28/2017 9:16 AM

Lauren daughter for ECE toys blog.JPGYoung children across Alaska are learning how to become healthy eaters and active kids by doing what comes naturally to them — looking at books and playing with toys.

Child care providers play an important role in helping to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits in young children. The Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program worked with the national Let's Move initiative and Thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, to provide training and resources to child care centers and day care homes to support healthy eating and physical activity habits. These habits include providing water to thirsty children, rather than sugary drinks, and increasing time spent in active play.

“Our goal is to help the youngest Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight,” said Diane Peck with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Child care programs can provide a healthy environment for children to eat, play, grow, and develop healthy habits for life.”

To help make these changes fun for kids, the program provides resources that encourage healthy eating and active play, such as age-appropriate physical activity equipment, fruit and vegetable food models, and children’s books highlighting healthy foods and kids being active.

Kelley Polasky, with Friendly Days Childcare in Juneau, recently completed the program.

“I've really enjoyed the toys and resources provided through the Let's Move initiative. The resources gave us great ideas for organized and free play,” she said. “The kids especially love the wrist ribbons! They are played with every day. From free dance to organized movements, they are a hit! We also have a toy kitchen, and the healthy toy foods allow the children to cook and pretend serving foods that are good for them. ”

2/13/2017 8:46 AM
Group-PPT.jpgAsk Alaska parents why sugary drinks are harmful, and almost all of them will tell you these drinks can cause cavities.
They’ll tell you these sugary drinks are linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

But fewer Alaska parents know that sugary drinks are also linked with heart disease.

During this Valentine’s week — when all of the focus is on the heart — here are a few things to know about how limiting sugary drinks may keep your heart healthy.

Sugary drinks include more than just sodas. They include sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened powdered mixes, vitamin-enhanced water beverages, and tea and coffee drinks with added syrups and sugars. These drinks can contain a high amount of added sugar. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda or a sweetened fruit-flavored drink can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. A tall glass of a sweetened powdered drink mix can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. A 20-ounce sports drink can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar.

Kendra Sticka, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said studies show that when you increase the percentage of calories that come from added sugars, you increase your risk of dying from heart disease. This increased risk was reported in the 2014 “Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine,” and was found after adjusting for several other factors, including Body Mass Index (BMI), diet quality, and physical activity and education levels.

Another recent study published in “Circulation” showed that each sugary drink matters in terms of health. After adjusting for a number of factors (smoking, physical activity, BMI, diet quality and more), the study showed that each additional sugary drink per day increased the risk of heart disease. Sugary drink consumption was associated with a higher level of inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, Sticka said.

A 2016 Scientific Statement focused on children and issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) said there is strong evidence supporting a link between added sugars and increased risk for heart disease in kids.

“Far too many children consume too much added sugar, and that puts them at risk for serious health problems,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
Children and adults are drinking too many sugary beverages, and the added sugar from these drinks is associated with an increase in unhealthy cholesterol in the blood – a risk factor for heart disease. Atherosclerosis — a condition in which fats and cholesterol can build up and harden and narrow your blood vessels — can start in childhood, the AHA Scientific Statement said. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks, strokes and death.

According to the AHA Scientific Statement, sugary drinks contribute about half of the added sugar in children’s diets. They also provide little to no nutritional value. Given that, the AHA recommends that children and adolescents limit their added sugar intake every day and limit their sugary drink intake to 1 or fewer 8-ounce drinks each week. That’s fewer ounces than you’ll find in most sugary drinks sold on the shelves at grocery stores.

Cutting back on sugary drinks, in whatever way you can, will make a difference in your health.

“Any decrease is going to be a benefit,” Sticka said.

Want to reduce the number of sugary drinks you serve your children? Find ways to make water an easier choice for your family. Have cold pitchers of water ready for your children in the refrigerator. Cut up fruits, like lemons or limes, and put them in a glass of water for a refreshing drink. Give your child their own special water bottle, or straw for their glass, to make it a drink they’ll want to choose.
2/6/2017 9:13 AM

Nunaka OR 7.jpgThis winter, about 500 Anchorage elementary school children will get the chance to try a new way to enjoy our long, snowy winters by cross country skiing.

Throughout January and February, the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting students from 10 elementary schools, mainly Title 1 schools, (see list of planned field trips below) at the Lidia Selkregg Chalet in Russian Jack Springs Park for ski field trips.

“For many of these kids, it’s the first time they are going to have the opportunity to ski,” said Margaret Timmerman, recreation coordinator for the program. “The whole idea is that we are a winter city and we want them to be aware of, and have a chance to participate in, positive healthy winter activities.”

The Outreach Ski Program began in 1995 and has been offering field trips since 2012 for local students who likely would not otherwise have a chance to try the sport. Timmerman said Parks and Recreation supplies waxless skis, boots and poles for students, as well as trip chaperones and school staff. Parks and Recreation staff and community volunteers provide ski lessons and tips to help students learn to ski.

“We are always happy to have volunteers,” said Timmerman. “And you don’t have to be an elite skier to help out. We have the full gamut of folks that can tie shoes, put on mittens and zip jackets, all the way to professional skiers. You just need to enjoy working with kids and be able to be outside for an hour and a half.”

Students from elementary schools not scheduled for field trips can try out the sport for free at the annual Ski 4 Kids event, to be held this year on Saturday, March 4, 2017, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Kincaid Park Chalet in Anchorage.

Ski 4 Kids is a partnership between Anchorage Parks and Recreation, the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, and Healthy Futures. Families can bring their own skis or use the Outreach Program equipment, and parents are welcome to ski along with their kids.

“It’s a really, really fun event, a winter festival to celebrate winter sports,” said Timmerman.

Kids up to age 14 can ski a 3K loop, timed or untimed, and there is a shorter, read-along storybook trail designed for skiers under age 5 as well. Each child who finishes the route receives a medal and a goodie bag. Nunaka OR18.jpg

“And there are a lot of other activities to try after the ski event,” said Timmerman. “We’ll have showshoeing, orienteering, a treasure hunt, an obstacle course, and more.”

Register for Ski 4 Kids at There is no charge for the event, but donations are requested to help keep the Outreach Ski Program going.

Below is a list of the planned Outreach Ski Program field trips for February 2017:
Feb 8, 2017: Anchorage Native Charter School (volunteer help needed)
Feb 9, 2017: Chester Valley Elementary (volunteer help needed)
Feb 10, 2017: STrEaM Academy
Feb 14: Russian Jack Elementary (volunteer help needed)

For more information on the Outreach Ski Program, or to arrange a field trip for your school, contact Anchorage Parks and Recreation at (907) 343-4217.

Photographs courtesy of Anchorage Parks and Recreation

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-01</hide>January 2017 ‎(3)
1/30/2017 9:43 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpg​In two days, it’s a good bet that 1 out of 5 Alaska elementary school students will start a free challenge to get out and play.

It’s called the Healthy Futures Challenge, a three-month physical activity challenge that takes place each spring and each fall in kindergarten through sixth grade. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and has been offered through a partnership with Alaska elementary schools for more than a decade. The number of participating schools and students has increased significantly in recent years. Last fall, almost 15,000 individual children successfully completed the physical activity challenge and won prizes.
The 2017 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts Wednesday, Feb. 1, in about half of Alaska’s elementary schools from Kiana to Klukwan. This spring, 193 schools in districts across the state have signed up to take part.
The Spring Challenge runs in February, March and April. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. This spring, the prizes for completing a Healthy Futures log are a flashing bike light for February, a puzzle ball for March, and a yoyo for April. Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity.
Is your school signed up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online.
It’s also not too late to sign up your school for PLAAY Day. PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. So far, 81 elementary schools across Alaska have signed up to participate in PLAAY Day on Feb. 23, 2017, the first statewide effort to get thousands of Alaska children physically active — all at the same time. At 10 a.m. that Thursday, children will gather in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers and join a free, live videoconferencing session filled with different physical activities meant just for kids. Go online to learn more about this initiative of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and sign up to register your school for PLAAY Day. 
1/23/2017 1:49 PM

Ellyn Satter blog photo1.jpg

Parents know the kitchen table can be a battleground. Trying to get kids to eat, let alone eat healthy foods, can be the cause of many stressful meals. How will these food fights impact children later in their lives?

Child feeding expert Keira Oseroff, faculty member with the Ellyn Satter Institute, will be speaking at the Anchorage Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Annual Conference on January 25, 2017. Keira will be discussing how parents and child care providers can develop and maintain a positive feeding relationship that empowers children to eat and grow well. Ellyn Satter is the author of the “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” which is the gold standard for feeding children.

We talked with Keira to learn more about feeding children.
1. Who is Ellyn Satter, and what does the Ellyn Satter Institute do?

Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist who has dedicated her career and writings to teaching people how to eat and feed their families with health and joy. She has become an international authority on best child feeding practices. Later in her career, she established the Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI) with the goal of continuing her life’s work. ESI teaches positive, joyful, and nutritionally responsible feeding and eating by reaching out to parents, clinicians, educators, researchers and policy makers, offering guidance in both prevention and treatment strategies.

2. What is the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding children?

Satter’s feeding model, “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” is recognized as a best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Head Start, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).
Satter’s Division of Responsibility says that parents have certain jobs with regard to feeding their kids, and kids have their own jobs when it comes to eating. The Division of Responsibility spells out at each stage of child development what the “boundaries” are when it comes to feeding and eating.
3. You say that parents have a job to feed children, and children have a job to eat the foods they’re given. Explain what you mean by parents’ feeding jobs and children’s eating jobs?
Parents often describe meal times as stressful and filled with power struggles. The Division of Responsibility encourages parents to take a leadership role in feeding. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, and children determine whether and how much they eat.
4. Many people are confused and stressed about what they eat and what they feed their children. How can we make eating more enjoyable?
It’s so difficult to tune out the noise that’s all around us. Everywhere we turn, whether it be from public policy, the medical field or pop culture, we are told what to eat, what not to eat, to move more and to weigh less. The noise easily turns into preoccupation about our food, our bodies, our kids’ food and their bodies. It becomes more and more difficult to tune in and trust ourselves when it comes to eating and feeding our kids. The noise and lack of trust are barriers to getting a meal on the table, to sit down with one another and enjoy one another and the food we share. When we become clear about our goal, that is to be together and share the same food, we bring the joy back to eating. When parents feed according to a division of responsibility, mealtimes become more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone. 
5. How can parents feed their children to help them grow up at a healthy weight?
Research supports what we have seen for years. That is, when parents focus on the feeding relationship and learn to trust themselves and their children, kids do better with eating. Kids are more likely to grow up in the bodies that are right for them.
6. Why are you speaking to child care providers about the best ways to feed young children?
Being with children for so many hours a day, child care providers are in a key position to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food. They are tuned in to behavioral issues, familiar with developmental stages, and are ready to consider them in the context of feeding. Childhood obesity is a hot button topic ever present in the school environment. It’s important to equip child care providers with tools that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the kids they are charged to care for. And because they are in a unique position to connect with parents, the tools and principles can be shared for practice at home.
Photograph courtesy of Keira Oseroff
1/9/2017 11:30 AM

IMG_1596.jpg​When you walk through the lunch line at Ketchikan schools, you have two choices about what kind of milk you’ll drink.

But neither choice comes with added sugar or flavors. You can have white nonfat milk or white 1% lowfat milk. Chocolate milk isn’t served at schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District at breakfast, lunch or during school fundraisers, said Emily Henry, wellness coordinator for the district.

Chocolate milk is one of a number of drinks that contain added sugars. Sugar can add up when children drink sweetened beverages at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner – and then eat sugary foods as well. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One year ago, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans set its first recommended limit for daily sugar intake, stating that adults and kids should limit their added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories they consume every day. For a child, that means just one bottle of soda (16 teaspoons of sugar) or one tall glass of a powdered, sugary drink mix (11 teaspoons of sugar) is too much and exceeds that daily limit of sugar.
In 2014, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District adopted its new wellness policy that doesn’t allow chocolate or flavored milk to be sold as part of the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program. That policy holds for the elementary, middle and high schools serving 2,200 students in the district.

“Ketchikan’s choice to stop selling flavored milk at school is a great example of a district working with their food service to address parent concerns about added sugars in their children’s diets,” said Lauren Kelsey, School Partnership Coordinator with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Norms can change pretty fast in a school district. Having the policy in place during the past three years means pretty soon there won’t be kids in elementary schools who remember when chocolate milk was an option.”

The Ketchikan policy promotes other areas of nutrition, including using Alaska farm and fish products when possible in school meals and snacks, providing salads and fruits to be prominently displayed in dining areas to encourage students to choose healthy foods, and stating that food rewards or incentives should not be used in classrooms to encourage student achievement or good behavior.

“All foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting school health and reducing childhood obesity,” the wellness policy states.

The Ketchikan School District’s school wellness policy is up for review again this winter. Henry said the district is considering updating its policy to model the State of Alaska Gold Standard School Wellness Policy, which was revised in 2016 to align with new federal regulations and a new state law requiring almost an hour of physical activity during each school day. Ketchikan’s District Wellness Committee meets Jan. 18 to discuss revising the policy.

Ketchikan schools have also added a number of new ways to help students drink water during the school day.

A student at Houghtaling Elementary School gathered more than 100 signatures from students and staff for a petition presented to the Parent Teacher Association asking to get a water bottling filling station installed. The PTA unanimously approved the petition, and the filling station is on order, Henry said. Ketchikan’s high school has two water bottle filling stations. Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school for grades PK-6, also has two water coolers and recently won a national award that will help pay for a water bottle filling station, said Cindy Moody, health aide at Tongass. All Tongass classrooms also allow students to keep water bottles at their desks, Moody said. If the students don’t have bottles, the school puts cups next to the water coolers so the students can serve themselves when they are thirsty, she said.

“It’s cool, it’s fresh, it looks appealing,” Moody said about the water coolers. When the cups run out, the kids are quick to let staff know.
“Which they do daily,” Moody said, “because they drink a lot of water.” 

To read more about Ketchikan’s school wellness program, visit the district’s website. A copy of the district’s wellness policy also can be found on the Department of Education’s wellness policy website. 

Photograph courtesy of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-12</hide>December 2016 ‎(2)
12/27/2016 12:20 PM


​Kids today live in a busy world of school, homework, sports, and activities designed to keep them busy and nurture their growing minds and bodies. But doing nothing is important, too. Well, not really nothing, but taking time to relax the mind and body, stepping away from the pressures of the world, and learning to be still and calm are also important to healthy development.

Yoga can help children learn techniques for relaxation, frustration and anger management, and handling stress and anxiety. Physically, it also helps with flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness.

“Proper breathing is a great way to energize, learn concentration and reduce stress,” said Dietrich Johnson, a children’s yoga instructor in Anchorage

“Standing poses build posture and strength. Balancing poses develop focus, strength, balance and poise. Difficult poses build self-esteem by teaching children that they can achieve what they set out to do all on their own. And relaxation poses reduce stress and teach kids how to focus.”

Pretending to be animals is a good way of introducing basic yoga poses, said Johnson.

“Luckily, most children love to talk, and they love to move — both of which can happen in yoga,” she said. “Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. Your role is to step back and allow them to bark in downward dog pose, hiss in cobra, and meow in cat stretch. They can also recite the ABCs or 123s as they are holding poses.”

Many yoga studios offer classes specifically for kids, but if there are none close by, you can still get the benefits of yoga by practicing with your children at home. It doesn’t have to be formal or even planned ahead of time. With just a few simple poses and enough space to spread out arms and legs, kids and parents can both have fun while benefitting from the practice.

“The first step is to just work on taking a deep breath in, slowly through your nose, and then slowly release your breath through your mouth,” said Johnson. “While you and your child are doing this, encourage your child to try to only think about the breath coming in, warming up, and going back out. This can be a life skill to help your child relax.”

After a few minutes of breathing, try some simple poses together. There are many good books, websites and videos available that demonstrate simple kid-friendly poses (see the list below). Let it be a fun, relaxed experience, and let them lead the practice, if possible, Johnson said.

“Sometimes my kids want to do poses and try new ones,” she said. “Sometimes they like to do yoga to songs. Sometimes they want to play games like Toe-Ga where we pick up pom-poms with our toes. And sometimes, they just want to do some guided relaxation.”

As your children become more comfortable with the practice, introduce some more challenging poses, ask them to plan a series of three poses in a flow so they can see how poses can fit together, or read a yoga book together and try out the poses as they are presented.

Two or three 20-minute yoga sessions a week can help most children, even those living with special needs, become more calm and handle life’s frustrations better, said Johnson.

“I have a daughter with mild-to-moderate autism and a stepson with ADHD,” said Johnson. “Yoga has helped them with self-regulation and muscle tone, and with techniques they can use to help them calm down if they have anxiety.”

Photograph courtesy of Dietrich Johnson

12/12/2016 9:23 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgYear after year, our partner the Healthy Futures program has been going after a goal.

Could the program get more than 200 elementary schools in Alaska to sign up for its free challenge that awards prizes to children who log enough physical activity each month?

Healthy Futures got closer and closer every Challenge. In Spring 2015, 189 schools signed up. Then 192 schools registered in Fall 2015. In Spring 2016, 199 schools signed up.

But this fall, Healthy Futures finally hit — and passed — its goal. All across Alaska, 209 elementary schools signed up so that thousands of Alaska kids could be supported and motivated to log 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day encourages schools to sign up for the upcoming Spring 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge and keep the momentum going. Elementary schools can sign up for the Spring Challenge now at:

With schools across the state participating in the Challenge, more than 15,000 Alaska kids in grades K-6 regularly log their physical activity on a simple form and turn it into teachers who help track their progress. Students fill out their activity log every day, and those students who complete at least 60 minutes of physical activity on 15 or more days each month win a Healthy Futures prize. Schools with high student participation also can receive small cash grants from Healthy Futures to put toward physical activity equipment and programs.

To learn more about the Healthy Futures Challenge, visit the Elementary Challenge website.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-11</hide>November 2016 ‎(2)
11/21/2016 9:54 AM

PLAAY logo.jpg

​Elementary schools across Alaska are getting ready to cheer on thousands of Alaska kids as they jump, run, dance and play — all at the same time, all across the state.

They’ll be participating in the first-ever PLAAY Day.

PLAAY is not spelled wrong. It stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. It’s an effort organized by our partner, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, to help community leaders improve how they work with Alaska’s youth on physical activity, health and wellness. PLAAY Day is set for Thursday, Feb. 23. Schools and groups across Alaska will organize a half-hour session at 10 a.m. when students in elementary schools will get up out of their seats and get moving.

Children will get together in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers. Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation will join athletes to lead the kids in an organized — and synchronized — fun session of physical activity. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and GCI will link all of these children in different communities through a free, live videoconferencing session. Communities that are not able to access that live session will receive a recorded video of the physical activities that they can use to participate in the Feb. 23 event.

Almost 50 elementary schools across Alaska have already registered to participate in the free PLAAY Day. Schools can sign up now here and will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer.

“We know the benefits of physical activity,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “It is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve a child’s self-worth, which in turn empowers them to recognize they can make active choices for improving their health.”

Physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus at school, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, and improved overall health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PLAAY Day will help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity needed every day for the best health. It will help children complete the February Healthy Futures Challenge, when kids across Alaska will be logging their daily physical activity through logs distributed at elementary schools. PLAAY Day is also an activity that goes toward addressing SB 200, the new Alaska law requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Last year, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame helped organize the first PLAAY Summit focused on improving youth’s health. This year, the PLAAY Day physical activity event at Alaska schools on Feb. 23 will be followed by the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 24 and 25 in Anchorage at ANTHC. The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The PLAAY Summit also will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health.

Partners of the PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit include Healthy Futures; ANTHC; the Children’s Hospital of Providence; the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation; the Chugach School District; GCI; the Anchorage School District Department of Health and Physical Education; Play Every Day; the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; King Career Center, and others.

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wallace Wilson at or Harlow Robinson at

11/7/2016 1:09 PM
IMG_0237 (1).jpgIf it’s your birthday at Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg, your day is going to start off with a school-wide celebration.
The principal is going to announce your name over the intercom during morning announcements. You’re going to be invited to walk down the hallway to the main office and pick up your signed birthday certificate. Then you will pick out your own book that you get to keep in honor of your birthday.
What you won’t get is a cupcake in your classroom. That’s because Stedman Elementary is one Alaska school that has changed its birthday celebration policy to recognize children’s special day in a healthy way.
The new practice of handing out books — not treats — started when the staff at Stedman Elementary School realized that they didn’t want to have cupcakes come in to the school for every child’s birthday.
“We decided that we could find other ways to celebrate the birthday that would make the student feel special and recognize the student on their special day,” said Teri Toland, principal of the school that teaches about 230 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Toland said the kids love having their names announced and walking down to the office to pick up their books. The kindergarten classrooms take the celebration a step further. Every child in the classroom makes a special card for the birthday student. The card says “You are 6 years old today. If I could give you anything, it would be ________.” The children get to fill in that blank with whatever gift they’d like to give and draw a picture of it.
“Children who don’t have a lot of money are able to give a really extravagant gift,” said kindergarten teacher Becky Martin. “They can give a castle or a rocket ship.”
“It makes the giver feel good, and it makes the birthday person feel pretty darn special,” said Erin Willis, Stedman’s other kindergarten teacher.
The kindergartner celebrating a birthday wears a crown for the day. The teachers bind all the birthday cards together into a special book that the student decorates with a cover and then takes home as a keepsake.
The change in how birthday parties are celebrated at Stedman Elementary stemmed in part from changing government standards calling for healthier snacks at school, but also from school staff who wanted a healthier way to celebrate their students on their special days. Toland, who was a teacher at Stedman when the birthday policy changed, said staff talked about the problem. If they considered a classroom of 20 students, that could mean celebrating 20 different birthdays each year, and 20 different days in which students ate sugary treats at school to celebrate those birthdays.
“As parents, we realized that having an extra treat at school wasn’t necessary,” Toland said.
As teachers, they realized that 20 different days of cupcakes in the classroom was causing a disruption to many school days. Furthermore, allowing families to bring sugary treats to the classroom put parents in a difficult position, Toland said. Some parents couldn’t afford to bring in treats for the whole class.
“It kind of differentiates between those who have and have not, and those who can and cannot,” Toland said. The new practice of celebrating students with school-supplied books and not parent-supplied treats removed that issue for families who couldn’t afford to bring in cupcakes and ensured every student was celebrated in the exact same way. The birthday books given to Stedman students don’t cost the school, or the parents, anything. The books are purchased using the proceeds collected from the annual school book fair.
Toland said switching to the birthday book celebration wasn’t an easy change for everyone to make, but the staff stuck with it and over time parents stopped bringing in sugary treats for their children’s birthdays. Healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, are still allowed if parents choose to bring them for the class. Toland said parents rarely choose to do that. Toland helps ensure that all parents and staff know the birthday policy by starting each school year with a school bulletin that explains how birthdays are celebrated at Stedman Elementary.
“It’s been a good way to teach kids that we eat healthy snacks,” she said.
Petersburg School District has partnered with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the past four years to maintain and train a District Wellness Coordinator who helps the district focus on supporting student nutrition and physical activity. The district’s work has been highlighted in previous blogs on the Second Chance Breakfast program and participation in Walk to School Day.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-10</hide>October 2016 ‎(2)
10/19/2016 11:39 AM

SB200 blog.jpgA new law takes effect this week in Alaska requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Children benefit from physical activity, both in their overall health and their academic performance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meeting the daily recommendation of physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, prevention of obesity, and improved overall health.

In 2016, the Alaska State Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 200, with the short title “Mandatory Physical Activity in Schools.” The law went into effect October 16, 2016.

The new law states the following:  “a school district shall establish guidelines for schools in the district to provide opportunities during each full school day for students in grades kindergarten through eight, for a minimum of 90 percent of the daily amount of physical activity recommended for children and adolescents in the physical activity guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”. Full text of the law can be found at

The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and adolescents (the same recommendation in Play Every Day messages). The new Alaska law requires 90 percent of that amount — or 54 minutes of physical activity — during each school day for grades K-8. The 54 minutes may include a combination of physical education classes, recess, and in-classroom physical activity. Since daily physical education is an important component of the educational curriculum, many schools will meet part of the requirement by offering PE. However, each district may decide their own combination of activities to meet the daily 54-minute requirement.

The Superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District, based in Barrow, asked each schools’ staff how they were going to meet this new requirement, said Brian Freeman, a member of the district’s wellness team. The school district’s leaders stressed that the law doesn’t allow inclusion of after-school activities toward the 54 daily minutes of physical activity, Freeman said.

Schools in this district came up with different strategies to reach the activity goal during school hours. Nunamiut School in Anaktuvuk Pass reports using dancing during its school-wide morning opening time to reach its goal. Nuiqsut Trapper School has recess and physical education classes every day for their students. Ipalook Elementary School in Barrow is incorporating Brain Gym exercises into its teachers’ daily lesson plans.

The Alaska School Health program, within the Division of Public Health, has created a webpage providing resources and options to assist school districts in their planning efforts to meet the requirements of SB 200. Visit for guidance, including sample scheduling options, recommended classroom-based physical activity resources, and model language to ensure school district wellness policies (also known as the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity policies) meet the new requirements of this law. 

10/4/2016 9:15 AM

HealthyDrinks_ServeWaterOrMilk_sm.pngWhen you drink a soda, the large amount of sugar hiding inside can start doing its damage right away in the mouth.

Soda, sports drinks, powdered mixes and other sugary drinks can lead to cavities in teeth. They can cause unhealthy weight gain in the body and damage to the heart. They can lead to blood vessels carrying too much sugar – a condition known as type-2 diabetes.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) started its Play Every Day sugary drink campaign with a main focus on the connection between sugary drinks and unhealthy weight gain. This fall, department program directors working on Play Every Day and obesity prevention are teaming up with department directors focused on dental health to strive for a similar goal: reduce sugary drink consumption among Alaska families to improve the health of their entire bodies – from their mouths to their waistlines to the health of their hearts and blood vessels.

“The new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project provides a great opportunity for public health and dental professionals to team up to cut sugary drink consumption,” said Karol Fink, manager of the department’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

“The campaign will engage dentists and dental hygienists to educate young Alaska children and their parents during routine dental exams about the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks, why too much sugar is harmful to the health of teeth and general health of the child, and why water and plain white milk are the healthiest drink options,” said Dr. Brad Whistler, manager of the department’s Oral Health Program. “These Alaska families likely won’t forget these important health messages from their dental appointments as Play Every Day will be reinforcing this information in TV Public Service Announcements running in communities across Alaska and in posters in health clinics and in schools.”

This two-year pilot project is being funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. Across the state, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. During the 2010-11 school year, dentists under contract with the Alaska Oral Health Program examined the teeth of young children in Alaska and found 41% of kindergartners had a filling or an untreated cavity on at least one tooth at the time of the screening. Rates of past or present cavities were even higher in third-graders, with 62% of students having past or present decay on at least one tooth at the time of the screening.

Between now and August 2018, DHSS health program directors will partner with dental providers to reduce sugary drink consumption among their patients, especially families with young children; expand the Play Every Day campaign’s sugary drink prevention efforts; and provide dental and public health clinics with patient educational materials.

Reducing sugary drink consumption in Alaska is essential, given that many Alaskans drink too many sugary beverages, and they’re drinking them every single day. Just one sugary drink — such as one bottle of soda with 16 teaspoons of added sugar — has more added sugar than people should have in one day based on the new sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• 42% of Alaska adults and Alaska high school students drink one of more sodas or sugary drinks every day (2013 BRFSS, 2015 YRBS)
• One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and two out of three parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week. (2014 Play Every Day Statewide Telephone Survey)

During the next two years, the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project will offer training to dental clinics and providers to ask their patients about sugary drinks, advise patients to reduce consumption, and assist these patients in coming up with a plan to reduce the sugary drinks in their diets and replace them with water. The project also will build on the recognizable Play Every Day campaign, creating specific educational messages to support the work of dental providers. Play Every Day’s current educational messages focused on reducing sugary drink consumption and promoting water are found online and will be updated when new materials become available.

To learn more about this partnership, visit the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project or contact

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-09</hide>September 2016 ‎(2)
9/26/2016 1:53 PM
Family Activity Calendar.jpgWe all want our kids to exercise, and most of us could add more activity to our days, too. Making physical activity a family affair is a great way to achieve both those goals at once.
Creating a Family Activity Chart is an easy way to plan activities, motivate the family to get active, and track your family’s progress toward 60 minutes of active play every day
Erin Kirkland, founder of the website, says the best way to get started is to keep it simple. There are some free activity charts you can download online, or create your own as a family craft project (see example 1, example 2, or example 3).
Then, identify time slots for activities, such as taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores. Choose times of the day or week when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule. Then work together as a family to set an easy, reachable goal.
“If you go too big to start, it becomes impossible to meet your goal, and that makes it less fun,” Kirkland said. “Set a simple goal for your family to start with, like after dinner every day, we are all going to go for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes.”
Then, when you get home, make a big deal about noting the activity on your family chart, so everyone feels a sense of accomplishment. If you need help thinking of ways to get your family active, the Let’s Move Family Activities Guide and the Centers for Disease Control’s Healthy Youth Toolkit have lots of ideas.
But Kirkland emphasizes that not all activity needs to be pre-planned. Spontaneous play time counts as activity as well.
“Grab a soccer ball, grab a football, or just take a little walk together,” Kirkland said. “Even something as simple as playing tag. Kids don’t play a lot like they used to and I think family play time together is very important in building and maintaining those relationships. As adults, we lose some of that sense of play and I think it is important to show your kids you can still play and have fun, and it encourages them to do it as well.”
Once your family is in the habit of being active together, you can plan longer or more intensive activities for a few days a week. None of your family activities need to be costly, either. You can choose to walk or ride bikes to school or the bus stop; use local, low-cost, or free places like public parks, baseball fields, and basketball courts; attend family nights or other physical activity events at your child’s school or local community centers; and bring along balls, kites, jump ropes, or other items that can be used for active play whenever you leave the house.
“Stop and look at what you’ve got right around you,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make a big monetary investment, because the important thing is to spend time together and be active and the rewards will pay off big-time.”
Amorette Payment, a Nutrition Educator with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, suggests combining activity time and community service time.
“I would encourage families to find a charitable organization that needs yard work and make a regular weekly or monthly commitment of time,” she said. “Find out if a senior citizen neighbor needs house cleaning or snow removal, or you could volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter. The kids will be proud of their contributions at the same time that they will be active and it sets the stage for more than one lifelong healthy habit!”
9/12/2016 9:20 AM
Have you ever seen hundreds of kids warming up alongside Olympic athletes, and then taking off in onJamboree photo from ASD.jpge mad dash through Anchorage’s trails?
Get ready for the Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees that are happening all over this city in September.
The annual elementary school running event started almost 30 years ago by Mike Allan, a physical education teacher at Baxter Elementary in the Anchorage School District (ASD). The event has expanded over the years throughout the city. Today, there are three, free running Jamborees in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. Many schools help their students get ready for the fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs. These clubs help kids build endurance and confidence by running around the schools and playing physical activity games.
The ASD Health and Physical Education (PE) Department partners with the Healthy Futures program, Play Every Day, the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Pacific University, local athletes and Olympians, and others to organize the Jamborees that will attract almost 5,000 Anchorage kids across the city, said Melanie Sutton, curriculum coordinator for ASD’s Health and PE Department. Elementary students will run different distances, depending on their ages. The race course length ranges from about ½ mile to 1 mile. All kids will receive medals when they reach the finish line.
"The Jamborees are an excellent opportunity for children to be introduced to organized running in a healthy environment that does not emphasize winning," said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures. "The last child to finish is celebrated the same as the first."
Look for other physical activity events and fun runs for families on the Healthy Futures calendar. Another fall tradition in Anchorage is the Tuesday Night Races series that started last week and will happen every Tuesday through Nov. 1.
Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees:
• South Anchorage Jamboree — Saturday, Sept. 17, starting at 10 a.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Service High School.
ASD teachers coordinating the South Jamboree: Michel Woods, Abbott Loop PE teacher; Nick Leiser, Trailside PE teacher; and Deb Clayton, Abbott Loop classroom teacher

• Beach Lake (Eagle River) Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 22, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails. 

ASD teachers coordinating the Beach Lake Jamboree: Caela Nielsen, Ravenwood PE teacher, and Chris Ruggles, Eagle River Elementary PE teacher

• North Anchorage Jamboree — Tuesday, Sept. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Bartlett High School.
ASD teachers coordinating the North Jamboree: Ben Elbow and Jill Singleton, both Rogers Park PE teachers
Parents are encouraged to pre-register their children for the Jamborees at their schools. All children must have a signed waiver before participating in the event. Ask your child’s physical education teacher for more information about the Jamboree in your area.
Photograph courtesy of the Anchorage  School District

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-08</hide>August 2016 ‎(4)
8/30/2016 11:48 AM
The 2016 Fall Healthy Futures Challenge is about to begin in almost half of Alaska’s elementary schools. Just five years ago, in 2011, only 34 schools in 4 school districts took part in the twice-annual effort to encourage Alaska’s kids to get out and play, every day. Today, 197 schools in 34 school districts are registered to take part. That’s great news for the future health and well-being of our youngest Alaskans.
The Healthy Futures Challenge is a three-month challenge that takes place each spring and fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. As a bonus, the prizes are typically things that children can use to be even more active.
Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity — a bonus for educators facing shrinking budgets. 
Natasha Bergt’s school received a $200 grant last year, which helped her purchase equipment her students can use at recess.
“Recess is a great time for kids that don’t have parents driving them to hockey or ballet or other after-school activities to get their 60 minutes a week in,” said Bergt, a PE teacher at Huffman Elementary School in Anchorage. “We’ve been a huge Healthy Futures school right from the start. We have kind of made it part of our school language that we should all be active at least 60 minutes a day. It’s a conversation that keeps reinforcing that you need an hour of exercise a day.”
Healthy Futures organizers say they hope even more schools sign up for the challenge this time.

"We're thrilled that 196 schools have already signed up for the fall Healthy Futures Challenge, and we're excited to bring more schools on with the goal of 200 statewide participating,” said Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures Challenge Coordinator. “The Challenge is a fun, free opportunity for schools and communities to encourage their youth to develop the habit of daily physical activity."
Is your school signed up for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online.


8/16/2016 9:36 AM

For Aug 16 blog New Sugary Drinks Poster 8.5x11-1A-CB.jpgSchool’s about to start, so take a look on the walls at your child’s school to see if you can spot Play Every Day’s newest messages about the importance of physical activity and the health risks of sugary drinks.

For the past few years, Play Every Day has been sending its posters to hundreds of schools across Alaska. Many of them are stilling hanging up – showing kids and parents how much sugar is hiding in sugary drinks (a 20-ounce bottle of soda can have the same amount of sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.)

This year’s posters touch on two pieces of news:
• First, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, filmed new public service announcements (PSAs) this summer featuring Alaska parents and adults in Bethel and Unalakleet who help children in their communities be physically active.
• And second, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued its new recommended limit for the amount of added sugar you eat and drink every day.

Play Every Day took this news from the Dietary Guidelines and photographs from filming families this summer and turned them into a new poster series for schools and health clinics across Alaska.

Let’s start with the new PSAs and posters that focus on physical activity. One PSA includes Nick Iligutchiak Hanson, a Unalakleet man who participated in the American Ninja Warrior TV competition this summer. Nick doesn’t just focus on his own physical activity. He spends a lot of time motivating children to be active through his free running club, his obstacle course on the beach, and his involvement in playing neighborhood games. The second PSA features the Iverson family from Bethel who gets children moving through playing, coaching sports, and heading to fish camp. Schools are receiving several new posters that feature Nick Hanson, the Iverson family, and children who get out and play in Unalakleet and Bethel.

Play Every Day has two new posters and two-sided rack cards focused on drinking water instead of sugary drinks. In January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that people limit the amount of added sugar they eat and drink every day to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. As an example, an adult eating an average of 2,000 calories a day should limit their consumption of added sugar to 12 ½ teaspoons each day. Play Every Day took that recommendation and communicated it using sugary drinks. One bottle of soda (with 16 teaspoons of added sugar) and one tall glass of a powdered drink mix (with 11 teaspoons of added sugar) have more sugar than a child should consume in one day. That bottle of soda has more added sugar than anyone should eat or drink in one day. The text across the top of the new posters drives home the main message: Even one sugary drink each day is too much.

Do you want to help us share these messages? We have more posters and rack cards and can mail them across Alaska. Please email or call 907-269-3433 to have posters sent to you.

8/9/2016 8:57 AM

Square-Salmon-Day-Boots-in-Stream-copy-300x300.jpg​Earlier this year, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a bill designating every August 10 as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

The annual celebration of all-things-salmon came about from a bill sponsored by Alaska State Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). He said he hopes this day will promote healthy and delicious Alaska wild salmon, and recognize the importance of salmon subsistence fishing, recreational fishing and commercial fishing.

At Play Every Day, we’re excited to celebrate salmon’s place on Alaska dinner plates (and breakfast, lunch, and snack plates as well). Wild Alaska salmon is an excellent source of lean protein, and it boasts high concentrations of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. People who eat one to two servings of salmon or other fish each week reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.

Health leaders in Alaska recommend that everyone eat fish at least twice a week for the best health. Alaska wild salmon is low in an environmental contaminant called mercury, so state health leaders recommend unrestricted consumption of all species of wild salmon, as well as other types of fish caught in Alaska waters.

Adding Alaska wild salmon to your plate this week?
Search for wild Alaska salmon recipes online:

Here’s one recipe to get you started:
salmon risotto photo.jpg
Alaska Salmon Risotto
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 (2 cups each)
2 packages (8 oz. each) risotto with mushrooms
1 cup fresh mushrooms (button, crimini or porcini), cut into bite-size pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth (regular or low sodium)
4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each) fresh, thawed or frozen
Pepper, to taste
10 to 12 oz. fresh asparagus (sliced into 2-inch pieces) and/or peas, blanched
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
• Prepare risotto according to package directions adding mushrooms, but cooking just three-quarters of total time, about 15 to 18 minutes.
• While risotto is cooking, bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large (12-inch) nonstick pan or stockpot.
• If salmon is frozen, rinse off any ice glaze under cold water.
• Turn off heat and gently add seafood to the chicken broth, skin side down.
• Return heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cover pan and cook 4 to 5 minutes for frozen salmon or 2 minutes for fresh/thawed fish.
• Turn off heat and let seafood rest in liquid for 5 minutes, until seafood is opaque throughout.
• Remove salmon from broth, season with pepper and cool slightly.
• Add asparagus/peas and Parmesan to partially cooked risotto; finish cooking risotto.
• Break salmon into large chunks (removing skin, if any) and gently fold salmon and basil into risotto.

8/2/2016 10:08 AM
Families across Alaska have stories to share about how they help their own children — and their community’s children — be physically active. This summer, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, visited two communities to help tell those stories.
We’ve talked about our visit with Nick Hanson, the American Ninja Warrior contestant in Unalakleet who coaches and mentors children of all ages. In June, we also visited Bethel and met the Iverson family. Watch our new TV public service announcements featuring Nick Hanson and the Iversons helping their communities be physically active.
Carolyn Iverson photo for Aug 2 blog.jpg

Carolyn and Shane Iverson are raising three children in Bethel, a community along the Kuskokwim River. Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have two boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.
The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.

“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn said. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”

Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The boys do Native dance twice a week at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo or play soccer — depending on the season. When school’s out for the summer, they pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.

The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn calls physical activity a “family affair.”

“If my kids are in wrestling, then our whole family goes to wrestling,” she said. “In basketball, when we coach, our whole family goes to basketball and they’re in the gym. So any time we have somebody doing something, our whole family goes. Shane will play Ultimate Frisbee, and our kids will be playing off on the sidelines.”

Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.

“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn said.

She encourages parents to join their kids in play. If your kids are playing outside, play with them. If your children are playing soccer, go with them to the soccer field. That’s what makes it more fun, she said.

This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-07</hide>July 2016 ‎(2)
7/26/2016 1:23 PM

Nick Hanson photo for July 26 blog.jpgWhat does the self-described Eskimo Ninja do to prep for the Las Vegas finals of American Ninja Warrior? Set a world record in the men’s scissor broad jump during the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.

Nick Iligutchiak Hanson’s leap of 37 feet, 5 inches last week pushed him into the record books and added another gold medal to his collection from the Arctic Winter Games and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. The previous world record for the event was 36 feet, 7 inches. Yep, Nick set that record, too. 

You might say his world-record leap vaults him into top form as he heads to the American Ninja finals in Las Vegas , where he will vie for the $1 million Ninja Warrior prize.
Nick — featured this month in a Play Every Day PSA to promote the importance of helping children be physically active every day — made it to the Los Angeles finals by nailing the obstacle course in the season premiere in Los Angeles that aired June 1. Over 6 million viewers watched the feat, according to Hollywood Reporter, making the premiere the most-watched network program of the night.

Nick then made it through the LA finals in the July 11 episode, qualifying him to compete in the Vegas finals later this summer.The show airs Mondays at 7 p.m.

What looks like a seamless run of success took years to develop. Nick competed in the Native Youth Olympics as a teenager and believes his subsistence lifestyle has helped him develop resilience and strength as an athlete. Last season, his first on American Ninja, he missed the regional finals by a fraction of a second.

Missing the cut prompted him to refocus and train harder, one of the key messages he wants to share and embody for the kids of his village, Unalakleet.  They were the ones who convinced him to audition for American Ninja in the first place. They’re the ones who flock to his no-cost running club and join in games of tag and hide-and-seek. And they’re the ones Nick wants to inspire to dream big, work hard, and care about their community.

The 28-year-old teaching assistant coaches youth in basketball, volleyball and Native Olympic events, and mentors other Alaska athletes who want a shot at American Ninja.  As a member of Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska, Nick proves that the Arctic games might be the training ground for the next Ninja Warrior.

Look for Nick on his You Tube channel, The Eskimo Ninja, and on TV in our PSA and American Ninja Warrior.

7/12/2016 8:25 AM

teddy bear picnic - Kids checking out the new playground.jpgThe state’s 6th annual Ted Stevens Day is coming up on July 23, 2016, and there are lots of fun activities planned around the state to help Alaskans get out and play. One of these family-friendly events in Anchorage is focusing on including children and adults who experience disabilities in playground fun.

The Ted Stevens Foundation is partnering with Parks for All, the Anchorage Park Foundation, ARC of Anchorage, Special Olympics Alaska, Healthy Futures, and other local groups to host the first "Teddy Bear Picnic" at Cuddy Family Midtown Park in Anchorage. Cuddy Park was Anchorage’s first inclusive playground, accessible to people who use wheelchairs and other assistive mobility devices.
The event organizers are encouraging families to bring their children — and their teddy bears — to the park between noon and 4 p.m. to enjoy a picnic, music, a parade and playtime. 
“The activities are geared toward including all kids and families in the fun,” said Beth Nordlund, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation, one of the partners in the Teddy Bear Picnic event. “We hope kids enjoy a bit of pretend creative time, play on the playground, and have fun with the other kids. We hope the adults take advantage of this great community gathering for family fun while they learn about the importance of inclusive play. No child should have to sit on the side of a park — inclusive play is for all of us!” 
Matias Saari, event support coordinator for Healthy Futures, says the organization is excited to be involved in the Ted Stevens Day event.
“The activities will be both fun and healthy, and we anticipate the event as a whole will build awareness of the Inclusive Play Movement and importance of wholesome outdoor opportunities for all kids,” he said. 
Ted Stevens Day Teddy Bear Picnic
Cuddy Family Midtown Park, Anchorage
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-06</hide>June 2016 ‎(4)
6/27/2016 9:48 AM

OvernightOatmealWithColton_3.PNGA new series of online cooking videos produced in Alaska show how kids can take charge in the kitchen and prepare meals with healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The series was filmed through the Children’s Healthy Living Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Cooperative Extension Service.

“Our goal was to show parents that preparing healthy meals with fruits, vegetables and legumes is easy,” said Andrea Bersamin, an associate professor at UAF who works with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research and the Children’s Healthy Living Program. This program is a funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve child health in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Palau, Micronesia, and the Northern Mariana and Marshall islands.

Each short video features a child helping to prepare and cook foods that are readily available in most parts of Alaska, like beans, kale, oatmeal, and vegetable fried rice. You can watch the videos at

“The idea is that kids can get involved in cooking even at a young age, and it makes them more likely to want to taste the food if they help make it,” said Bersamin. “The overnight oats video shows just the child making the whole thing, no adults.  These recipes are easy and fun to make.”

The videos were filmed in the UAF Cooperative Extension kitchen in Fairbanks and feature Alaska families. Bersamin said the group has plans to make additional cooking demonstration videos using traditional Alaska Native and subsistence foods.

6/14/2016 9:43 AM

Drink Water Poster ANTHC.jpgSummer sports are kicking up – soccer, mountain biking, and softball. But just because you play sports doesn’t mean you need sports drinks. A number of coaches and other sports professionals are advising their athletes to make better choices when they hydrate their bodies.

Matt Thomas is one of these coaches.

“(Sports and energy) drinks are short-burst stimulants, and can have a lot of sugar, and they are not the right type of thing to be putting into your body routinely,” said Thomas, the head coach for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves men’s hockey team. “We discourage our players from drinking them and we educate them on the proper, healthier ways to hydrate and create the needed focus and energy. We understand that there isn’t a very good correlation to performance from using sports or energy drinks.”

Thomas says he encourages his players to consume healthy meals when training or preparing for a game, and to choose drinks like water or milk.

“We know that water is always a good choice,” he said.

Thomas said his hockey players, like many college students, don’t always make the best food and drink choices, but part of their pre-season training is meeting with a sports nutritionist.

“We give the kids an opportunity to get good information on how to fuel your body the proper way,” he said. “These guys are grown men who can make their own decisions, but they are interested in what they should consume to make their bodies work best, and they understand there are other things you can do for your body that are better than sports drinks.”

Rikki Keen is a sports nutritionist who has worked with the UAA Men’s Hockey team many times. She discourages sports and energy drinks for athletes of all ages, but especially for children under 18.

“Kids are growing rapidly, and of all the times of their lives, this is not the time to be consuming those poor-nutrient-based drinks,” she said.

Keen worries about the way these beverages are marketed, to make it seem like they are what your body requires during or after exercising. The drinks come in pretty colors and flavors, she said. Their labels often say they contain electrolytes, like sodium or potassium, that your body loses when you sweat during physical activity. But Keen says you can get more sodium and potassium in a cup of milk than from a sports drink.  

“Calories are not created equal,” Keen said. “You need to ask yourself: Is it necessary to have a sports drink when you can get the same things from a banana and water?”


6/7/2016 9:17 AM

2015 Mayor's Marathon Expo_37.JPG​Looking for ways to keep your kids active when school is out? These kid- and family-friendly runs are coming up:

Healthy Futures Kids Mile
Thursday, June 16
UAA campus
7:00 p.m.
The Healthy Futures Kids Mile is part of the Anchorage Mayor's Marathon & Half Marathon presented by ConocoPhillips and takes place while adults are registering for their marathon bibs. The route begins in front of the Alaska Airlines Center and winds around the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.
The event includes refreshments and prizes. Scott Janssen, the “Mushin’ Mortician,” will lead the kids out behind a team of huskies. Local “Healthy Heroes” will run with the kids and hand out Healthy Futures medals.
The run is free, but kids must be registered in advance to receive a bib and prizes.
Children’s Hospital at Providence Kids’ 2K
Saturday, Aug. 20
Delaney park Strip, Anchorage
Healthy Heroes Warmup: 9:30 a.m./Run: 10:00 a.m.

The event organizers call the Kids' 2K (about 1.2 miles) a no-pressure, fun run on the Delaney Parkstrip between E and I Streets (one block south of the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center). The start area is on 9th Avenue at its intersection with G Street. The finish is on the Park Strip grass (near F Street). The pre-race warm-up will be led by Anchorage's Healthy Hero athletes, who will also guide the runners around the course.
The run is free and all registered participants will receive a hat and a finisher’s medal.
Little A Triathlon
Saturday, June 25
Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area, Palmer (formerly known as Kepler-Bradley lakes)
10:00 a.m.
Individuals: $100, Teams: $150

Come take part in an event focused on two goals: serving as a memorial for Avery Lindholm, a 2-year-old Alaska child who died from brain cancer, and raising funds for Alaska families with children who have cancer. Entry fees will be donated to the family of an Eagle River child who recently died from cancer. 
The course includes an 800-meter swim in Matanuska Lake (a wetsuit is strongly recommended), 12 miles of off-road biking, and a 4-mile trail run. 
Team or individual registration includes a T-shirt, a finisher’s medal, entry into a raffle for prizes, and more.
6/6/2016 2:02 PM

ninja.jpgThe sun looks bright at 5 a.m. in Unalakleet in May, but it provides little warmth against the chill on this clear morning. Nick Iligutchiak Hanson heats up a different way – by navigating an obstacle course that tests his agility, speed, power and endurance as he leaps and reaches over and up stumps, logs and walls.

On this day in May, he was doing the course for a  Play Every Day PSA to promote the importance of daily physical activity. Play Every Day has partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to show how people in communities across Alaska are helping families get more active for the best health.

Most days, Hanson hits his homemade course on Unalakleet's beach to prepare for American Ninja Warrior, an obstacle course competition show that airs on NBC. Last year he almost made it to the city finals. This year, he was the first to successfully complete the course in the first round.

After nailing the warped wall, hitting the buzzer, and howling triumphantly, Hanson told the show’s sideline interviewer, “I’m just so glad I have had so much support from my family and my community.”

The feeling goes both ways. The kids he coaches prodded him to try out for Ninja Warrior in the first place, he said, and they continue to play with the 28-year-old Ninja all year. 

Hanson coaches basketball, volleyball and Native Youth Olympic games during the school year, and leads a running club all summer. He mentors other Alaska athletes vying for a spot on Ninja Warrior as well.
For Hanson, staying active means staying connected with his body, his community and his culture. As a teacher’s aide, coach, mentor and motivational speaker, Hanson wants to help kids do their best and guide them toward healthy option, he said. He wants to be someone they can turn to when they need a hand or need someone to listen.
And if some of these kids start a game of hide-and-seek using the whole village as a playground, Hanson is definitely playing.
Though now in the national spotlight as the American Ninja Warrior from the small Alaska community, Hanson has already made a name for himself as an athlete, coach and community leader. In March, he won gold in the Open Men’s Two-Foot High Kick during the Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland, and he has won over 30 medals in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics and Arctic Winter Games since 2013.
In the past few years, he has received several notable recognition awards, including the 2015 Native Youth Olympics Healthy Coach award and the 2015 Bering Straits Native Corporation Young Providers award. Just month ago, he received a 2016 Alaska First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his dedication to youth and his community (view his video about receiving the award in Juneau here).
Now, as Alaska’s Ninja Warrior, Hanson heads to the show’s regional finals and is that much closer to the show’s Las Vegas finale and $1 million Ninja Warrior prize. That hardly seems to matter on this clear spring night in May.
As sunlight clings to the horizon, Hanson keeps moving from corner to alley, beach to river bank, in a hide-and-seek game that plays on into the evening sun.
Find out more about the obstacle course Hanson and friends built and the work he does on his You Tube channel, The Eskimo Ninja, and look for him and the community of Unalakleet again in an upcoming Play Every Day PSA that will air statewide in August,
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-05</hide>May 2016 ‎(2)
5/23/2016 9:17 AM

summer log small.jpg​It used to be that the start of spring marked the end of the Healthy Futures Challenge for the year.

Not anymore.

For years, Healthy Futures has offered two, free physical activity challenges during the school year — one in the fall and one in the spring. In June, the Healthy Futures program is starting its first Summer Challenge with a few programs across the state ready to support Alaska kids being active throughout the summer.

“Our program is about building habits, and the summer has always been a large gap between our spring challenge and our fall challenge,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The summer challenge provides support for daily physical activity when many children need it, he said.

Healthy Futures is partnering with Camp Fire Alaska, the Alaska Afterschool Network, and RurAL CAP to run the summer physical activity challenge in four rural communities that participate in Camp Fire’s Rural Camp program and through Camp Fire’s school-based summer camp program in Anchorage.

“Camp Fire Alaska strives to teach and encourage youth to make healthy life choices. Partnering with Healthy Futures seemed like a natural fit,” said Joanne Phillips-Nutter, director of development and marketing for Camp Fire Alaska. “The partnership provides Camp Fire with a tried-and-tested system to further encourage, incentivize, and promote the practice of lifelong fitness. We are excited to partner with Healthy Futures, and provide the opportunity to extend their programming to reach youth year-round!”

The school-year Healthy Futures Challenge and the Summer Challenge run in slightly different ways. To successfully complete the school-year challenge, children in grades K-6 fill out a physical activity log for an entire month. To complete the Summer Challenge, children need to fill out an activity log for a two-week period of time. During those two weeks, participating children need to be active for 60 minutes a day for at least 10 days, Robinson said.

This two-week Summer Challenge period matches the two-week length of the summer camps that Camp Fire runs in rural communities across the state. This summer, the Healthy Futures Challenge will be offered in Kaltag, Nulato, Ruby and Koyokuk.

There will be four, two-week Summer Challenge periods in June and July, Robinson said. Children who complete the Summer Challenge will receive a prize. If children complete three of the four Summer Challenge periods, they will be eligible for a $300 grand prize gift card to buy physical activity equipment.

Robinson calls this Summer Challenge a pilot, and Healthy Futures will be seeing how it works in rural and urban communities. Some of these communities have participated in the school-based challenge that is run every fall and spring in almost 200 schools. Others haven’t participated before.

“It’s an opportunity to get in the door in those communities,” Robinson said. “Hopefully they will continue on (with the challenge) in the fall.”

To learn more about the Summer Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Healthy Futures at

5/16/2016 10:11 AM

A circus is coming to Barrow next week, and the community’s children will be the performers.Every summer in Barrow – the northernmost community in Alaska – circus artists fly in to provide a two-week camp for almost 100 Barrow children. Kids from 5 and up can attend every day at no cost to them.Barrow Circus photo.jpg

The camp has been running for the past eight summers in Barrow and for five years in the surrounding villages, said Sandy Solenberger, who has helped organize the yearly North Slope circus camps. Children can attend circus camp for free because it is fully funded by a federal diabetes grant and Ilisagvik College, and it receives in-kind support from the City of Barrow and the North Slope Borough School District, Solenberger said.

This year’s Barrow camp will run May 23 through June 3. During that time, the campers will get to learn unique physical activities – including walking on stilts and a tightwire, balancing on a board atop a rolling cylinder, hanging on a trapeze, and tumbling. These circus skills help Barrow children get closer to 60 minutes of physical activity each day – the national recommendation for good health.

“What we are trying to do is help kids develop the habit of physical activity,” Solenberger said. “We are looking for unusual activities that make joyful memories.”

Some of these activities seem novel, but they have a history in Alaska Native culture, Solenberger said. For some regions of Alaska, juggling is an Alaska Native skill that was done with rocks instead of balls. The Barrow circus camp staff are hoping to leave behind more juggling balls in North Slope villages to promote this physical activity after the camp concludes, Solenberger said.

The camp promotes health beyond increased activity. Solenberger said the only drink available to the kids during camp is water. At the beginning of camp, kids decorate their own water bottles so they can drink water throughout the day. Camp coordinators also talk to kids about the health concerns linked with sugary drinks.

If you’re in Barrow on June 3, be sure to stop by for the grand finale of Circus Camp. The children will put on an evening circus show for the whole community. Families will be entertained, and the children get to show off their new physical activity skills.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-04</hide>April 2016 ‎(3)
4/26/2016 12:31 PM

Pink Potato Salad 2.JPGWant to make a healthy salad that passes the kid test?
Alaska kids tried 20 new salad recipes during the past year, and their top choices for salads, dressings, and seasonings were printed in the new Alaska School Salad Book, which is available online for free.
Alaska kids from the Alaska Gateway School District in Tok and the Boys and Girls Home of Alaska in Fairbanks taste-tested pizza salad, crispy ranch chickpeas, Mediterranean couscous, and more and then graded them with words, and scores.
"It is epic and good," said one child about one of the salads. “Awesome,” said another.
When asked to rate a salad on a scale of 1-6, with 6 being the best, one student’s score went through the roof: 999,999.Pizza Salad
It’s hard to question the deliciousness of a salad when one child says, “It’s the best thing in the world.”
The Alaska School Salad Book was published in partnership by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS); the Department of Education and Early Development; the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture; the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service; the Alaska Gateway School District; and the Boys and Girls Home of Alaska The recipes come in bulk sizes so that schools can make them for the growing number of salad bars available in Alaska schools. But don’t worry if you’re not up for making a salad that feeds 100 people. The health department has also printed all of the salad recipes in quantities that feed a much smaller family of four. All of the recipes are saved as PDF files and can be printed and cut-out for your personal recipe files.

The salad recipes provide fun news ways to help make fruits and vegetables a part of children’s daily diets because they are essential for optimal child growth, weight management and chronic disease prevention, said Diane Peck, a registered dietitian with DHSS. Unfortunately, Alaska children are not eating enough fruits and veggies. Only 20% of Alaska high school students eat the minimum recommended amount of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, according to Alaska’s recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The salad book, and the smaller-size family recipe cards, show off unique ways to mix fruits and vegetables in salads. Toss together wheat berries, green peppers, black olives, some spices and a little mozzarella cheese and diced pepperoni and you have pizza salad. It’s got all the flavors of pizza, but is served in a bowl and not on a crust. Fruits and vegetables are front and center in the Carrot and Mandarin Orange Salad. Want a surprise of color? Prepare pink potato salad with red potatoes – skin still on – and whole beets.
 “It was exciting to see the kids trying new foods, especially foods that come from Alaska,” Peck said. “The students made great suggestions to improve some of the original recipes. They were so eager to try new foods when they were involved in the process.” 

4/18/2016 9:08 AM

​When the snow melts and warmer weather arrives, many of Alaska’s kids are anxious to get outside on their bikes. And many of ASDBikeSafetyTrailer.jpgAlaska’s physical education teachers are anxious to give those kids a refresher course in bike safety.

But some kids can’t get their bikes to school easily, some don’t own a helmet, and the bikes they bring often have mechanical issues that delay learning and safety skills practice while teachers help students get their bikes in working order.

Now, a cooperative effort between the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, the Anchorage School District, and the state Department of Transportation’s Alaska’s Safe Routes to School Program is providing an all-inclusive bike safety class-in-a-trailer that includes well-maintained bikes, helmets, and a curriculum.

Health and physical education teachers can reserve the trailer through an online request system and have it delivered directly to their school. White Spruce Trailers in Anchorage outfitted the 20-foot trailer with the hooks and storage for the bike fleet and helmets, and a supply cabinet filled with cones and signs for setting up a bike skills course along with the tools needed for simple maintenance and upkeep of the bikes.

The bikes are Bike Friday’s OSATA bikes and are capable of adjusting to fit riders from 4’0” to 6’2” and up to 200 pounds. They are made in Eugene, Ore. of Made in America steel — a rarity for children’s bikes.

The curriculum includes classroom and on-the-bike instruction taught using the Bikeology curriculum, designed by ShapeAmerica (Society of Health and Physical Educators) with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Bikeology is tailored for students in grades 6-12 and meets national standards for K-12 physical education.

 “We are excited to work with our community partners to enhance our current programs by finding innovative ways to engage our students,” said Melanie Sutton, the Health and Physical Education Coordinator for the Anchorage School District.  “This program allows us to increase our ability to provide an equal playing field for students to learn about the benefits gained from being physically active as well as the skills and knowledge to incorporate safe, satisfying physical activity into their lives.” 

4/11/2016 10:44 AM
​Looking for a brain break?
That’s the term a number of Alaska teachers are using when they add in a short burst of physical activity in the middle of classroom learning. Physical activity has benefits that go beyond helping children and teens maintain a healthy weight. Recent national studies show that physical activity can help our children think and learn better
Since children and teens spend more than half of their waking hours in the classroom, school is a prime location to increase physical activity among children. Some Alaska teachers are seeing the direct benefits of short activity breaks in their classrooms, and they say it is a great way to help youth reach the goal of 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
“They say that with any muscle you need to work it, but also give it some rest, so we take little brain breaks throughout the day,” said Marisa Glieco, a teacher at Lake Otis Elementary School in Anchorage. “When the kids have been sitting for 20 minutes or so, listening, taking notes, or doing an activity, a brain break gives them a little chance to move their bodies and give their minds a rest. I am always looking for ways we can get them up and active, and re-engage their brains.”
Sarah Tunley, a health specialist with the Anchorage School District, said she uses the same approach in the health and life skills classes she teaches to students in kindergarten through 6th grade.
“In elementary school, a lot of the time we are still kind of focused on all of our content, and kids are sitting and being sedentary a lot throughout the day,” Tunley said. “I want to make sure the kids are getting physical activity throughout the day, and not just at recess or PE time.”
There are numerous sources online for active classroom break ideas, but Glieco and Tunley both said their go-to brain break activity source is
“Most of the teachers at my school use Go Noodle,” Glieco said. “The site has a wide variety of activities, so there is something for everyone from dancing, to Zumba, to weird YouTube videos the kids like to jump around to.”
Glieco said her principal encourages teachers to have their classes take short extra recess breaks when possible to help kids focus better. When the schedule doesn’t allow a full outdoor break, a 10- or 15-minute activity break in the classroom can be just as helpful.
“When we don’t (take an activity break), you can tell the difference (in their behavior),” Glieco said. “They enjoy that ability to not only connect with each other, but to be active.”
Glieco and Tunley also like the wide variety of activity levels they can choose from when using online resources.
“If you are having a really rambunctious class, there are calming activities and yoga that can help them focus on an activity and help them be mindful,” said Glieco.
Most online classroom activity resources require little or no teacher preparation, special equipment, or resources. Glieco said she particularly likes to show videos that the kids can follow along with for brain breaks because it gives her a chance to rest her brain and get active as well.
Looking for short classroom activity break ideas? Check out these sites:
Go Noodle
Take 10
Active Classroom Resources
Fuel up to Play 60
Activity Bursts in the Classroom
Kids in Motion 

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-03</hide>March 2016 ‎(4)
3/29/2016 9:47 AM

Today, Play Every Day is looking at oVitamin400x300.jpgne of the most confusing drinks sold in the sugary drink aisle of the grocery stores. It’s called a vitamin-enhanced water drink. The confusion around this drink comes with how it’s marketed.

When you look at the front of a vitamin-enhanced water drink, it appears to be a healthy choice. The front label stresses that it’s packed with vitamins. If you turn the bottle around, however, the nutrition facts label tells the truth. A vitamin-enhanced water drink is actually loaded with sugar — about 8 teaspoons of added sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.
This January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued the first-ever recommended limit for the amount of added sugar we eat and drink every day. The limit states that everyone  — old and young — should limit their added sugar to 10 percent or less of total daily calories.  A typical adult consuming 2,000 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 12 ½ teaspoons of added sugar or fewer each day. A moderately active 8-year-old boy should have no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Just one vitamin-enhanced water drink gets a child or an adult close to the daily sugar limit, and that doesn’t count all of the other added sugar eaten each day in cereals, snack bars, desserts, even condiments like ketchup and salad dressing.

Play Every Day has been looking at several different types of sweetened drinks to find out how much sugar they contain. Earlier this month, we focused on the powdered mix.  While it’s often billed as a breakfast drink with added vitamins, a 16-ounce glass of a powdered mix can start your day with more added sugar than a can of soda.
For the best health, skip sugary drinks like vitamin-enhanced beverages and powdered mixes. Instead, serve your families water or low-fat milk.  If you want vitamins, stick with whole foods and all-natural sources, like fruits and vegetables.
3/22/2016 12:08 PM

Press conference at elementary schoolA national public health foundation has recognized Anchorage as one of four communities nationwide that reduced its childhood obesity rates. Obesity rates among Anchorage School District elementary and middle school students declined by 2.2% between the 2003–04 and 2010–11 school years, due to coordinated efforts among the school district, the Municipality of Anchorage, and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).

On March 22, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released the results of the Childhood Obesity Declines project from the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research. The project studied four U.S. communities — Anchorage, Alaska; New York City; Granville County, N.C.; and Philadelphia, Pa. — to better understand the strategies these communities used to reduce the significant health issue of childhood obesity.
The report discusses a number of strategies and collaborations that likely contributed to the childhood obesity decline seen in Anchorage between the 2003-04 and 2012-11 school years. Strategies completed through partnership by the Municipality of Anchorage, the Anchorage School District and DHSS had a positive effect on obesity rates.
At the Anchorage School District, the wellness team made the following changes: 
  • increased weekly physical education and health instruction time for elementary students;
  • no longer sold sodas during school hours;
  • improved school lunches to meet stricter health standards;
  • expanded the national school lunch program to high schools;
  • increased the number of students participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge — the free, school-based physical activity challenge run by Healthy Futures, an Alaska nonprofit organization; and
  • adopted a comprehensive School District Wellness Policy that improved the foods available in vending machines, school stores and classrooms.
At the same time, the Municipality of Anchorage’s Task Force on Obesity and Health increased public awareness of the health consequences of childhood obesity; improved childcare licensing requirements around physical activity and nutrition; encouraged a variety of agencies to engage in improving the health of Anchorage residents; and guided development and adoption of the Anchorage Pedestrian and Bike Plans.
 “Childhood obesity is a serious health concern in Alaska, and about 1 out of 3 children in this state is overweight or obese,” said Karol Fink, the DHSS Obesity Prevention and Control Program manager. “This report shows that a broad set of policies applied by a large group of partners over a period of time can affect health behaviors and reduce childhood obesity rates.”
While community partners are pleased obesity rates among Anchorage students have not increased since 2011, the collective efforts must continue to further decrease obesity rates. Many children remain at increased risk for weight-related health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
At a public event at an Anchorage elementary school, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff, and Dr. Jay Butler, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the state of Alaska, committed to continue working collaboratively to address childhood obesity in Anchorage.
3/14/2016 8:45 AM
Superhero Showdown logo.png

Spring is on its way, and that means it’s almost time for running race season!
There are two runs coming up in April that are great opportunities for families Spring is on its way, and that means it’s almost time for running race season! There are two runs coming up in April that are great opportunities for families to get active together while raising money for good causes.
The Skinny Raven Superhero Showdown on Saturday, April 9, is a chance to suit up in a superhero costume — anything from Watchmen to the Incredibles to the Avengers — and join dozens of other families on a Heroes vs. Villains 5K or Little Heroes 1.3K course (for kids under 10) along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
You can run with a team, decide if you are heroes or villains, and compete for fastest team, biggest team and best-costumed team.  Local food trucks, face painting, and a bouncy castle offer more fun at the finish line. Participants receive a T-shirt and a medal.
Register online before April 8 and pay $40 for the 5K and $25 for the 1.3K. Prices are $5 more for race-day registration.
Families also can request financial assistance for youth entry fees by emailing Healthy Futures. Skinny Raven will match all donations up to $1,000 for the Healthy Futures program.
Come out again two weeks later for the Alaska Heart Run on Saturday, April 23. Choose from a timed 5K, untimed 5K run and walk, or a 3K walk — all on the UAA campus.

Register online before April 3 for the best prices: Adults pay $25 for the timed 5K and $20 for the untimed 5K, children ages 4-18 pay $10 and $5, and little ones under 4 are free.

According to the race website, all money raised at the Heart Run will benefit the American Heart Association to fund research and community programs that help to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Participants who register for the Alaska Heart Run on or before April 22 will be entered to win a free Alaska Airlines ticket. Children in 6th grade and below will receive a Heart Run medal and there will be awards for the top 5 male, female, and Mended Hearts runners (heart attack or stroke survivors), top fundraising teams and top participating schools.

Find more information about both races here:
Superhero Showdown
Alaska Heart Run


3/7/2016 9:30 AM

When you talk about sugary drinks, the most common one that comes to mind is soda.

But it’s not just soda anymore.
Today, sugary drinks can mean many different types of beverages that come loaded with added sugar and other sweeteners. Play Every Day is going to explore how much sugar is hiding in these dTang-wText500x358.jpgrinks.
Sugary drinks are the source of almost half of all added sugars consumed by Americans. Several years ago, we talked with Alaska parents of children ages 5 to 12 — in Bethel, Barrow, Nome, Fairbanks and Anchorage. We asked these parents what kinds of sugary drinks they had on their cupboard shelves at home.
The most common drink at home for these families wasn’t soda. It was powdered drink mix.
The powdered drink mix is available in all kinds of flavors, including the popular orange flavor. It can be found stacked up in displays at Alaska rural grocery stores. These drinks are stable on the shelves for months at a time and can be stirred in by the scoopful — turning a healthy beverage (water) into a drink that contains almost as much sugar per ounce as soda.
A 16-ounce glass of a powdered drink can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. If you serve that to your children at breakfast, they will hit the recommended cap for a whole day’s worth of added sugar before even arriving at school.  This January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued the first-ever recommended limit for the amount of added sugar we eat and drink every day. The recommendation states that everyone — old and young —  should limit their added sugar to 10 percent or less of total daily calories. A moderately active 8-year-old boy, for example, should have no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar each day. That’s less than what’s found in that one glass of a powdered drink mix.
For the best health, skip sugary drinks like powdered mixes and serve your families water or low-fat milk. Learn more about sugary drinks on our website.




collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-02</hide>February 2016 ‎(4)
2/22/2016 11:06 AM
Let's Move Active Schools logo for blog.jpgWe want kids to be more physically active — to get out and play every day for 60 minutes. Regular physical activity does more than help kids stay healthy and strong. The national Let’s Move! Active Schools program stresses that activity is also linked to higher test scores, improved school attendance, increased focus and better behavior in class, and other healthy habits.
Schools are a great place to help increase the amount of physical activity Alaska children get each week.
“Since they spend so much time in school, it’s a great place to work on their activity levels,” said Nancy Blake, a physical education teacher at Goose Bay Elementary School in Wasilla and the Alaska state coordinator for the Let’s Move Active Schools program.  “The program provides a clearinghouse of information for people committed to improving physical activity for kids.”
Let’s Move! Active Schools is a free, national program that is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! Program, which is supported by health, education and private sector organizations. The program assists schools in ensuring that 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the new norm in K-12 schools across the country.
As Blake explains it, anyone can register their school, from a teacher to a parent to a principal. Then they will be asked to take a short survey.
“The survey is to see what your school’s strengths are and where your needs are,” said Blake. “It’s also a way nationally for us to get an idea of what is happening out there in the schools. It gives us a way to answer the question:  How can we provide more activities before school, after school, and throughout the school day, for kids?”
In addition to accessing an online resource clearinghouse, registered Active Schools can learn about grants, discounts, and special offers from public and private sector sources to buy equipment or supplies to address the school’s needs or to attend training and professional development opportunities. Active Schools can also access experienced physical activity and physical education advisors. National experts provide customized support and virtual and in-person trainings.
“There are a ton of partnerships out there so you can access grant money to provide more programs in your school,” said Blake.
Furthermore, schools can get special awards and incentives for their efforts to provide a healthy and active environment. Seward Middle School was awarded a bronze Active Schools prize in 2014.
Yolanda Ifflander, the staff nurse at Seward Middle School, said the program looked at the school’s class instruction regarding physical activity and good nutrition, as well as the school’s wellness policy. The school provides 50 minutes of PE every day for every student, but that was just a starting point.
 “They examined our school menu to see if it meets federal requirements for low fat, low salt and servings of fruits and vegetables. It’s very detailed, and you have to provide proof that you are meeting their standards,” she said.
As part of the award, Ifflander received funding to attend a national Active Schools conference, where she shared ideas with Active Schools coordinators from around the nation and learned about new private sector grant and award sources to help schools continue their positive work. Ifflander later applied for a healthy eating prize from a blender manufacturer, and was one of only five schools nationwide to win. The school received $10,000 to buy fresh produce, along with several blenders and recipes. Ifflander spent three months teaching a group of about 40 youth how to make healthy smoothies every school day, using fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, almond milk and coconut water.
“It was my goal to expose kids to healthy fruits and vegetables they might not otherwise get exposed to, either due to family finances that limit what their parents can buy, or because of where we are located,” she said.
Ifflander said the kids in the program loved the smoothies, and she has carried on the effort to make smoothies for all the kids at the school as funds allow.
To learn more, email, call 1-855-972-0876, or go to
There are more than 17,000 schools nationwide enrolled in the Let’s Move! Active Schools program.  Find Alaska’s Active Schools on the Let’s Move website.
2/18/2016 11:43 AM

It might be cold outside in February, but that doesn’t stop many Alaskans from getting active. If your family needs a little nudge to get bundled up and play outside, Public Schools Celebration Week might be just the ticket.

Great Alaska Schools is partnering with United Way and other Alaska agencies this week to celebrate the “Public Good in Public Education.”  Part of the plan includes designating Friday, Feb. 19, as “Play Outside Together Day.” The organizers are hoping to encourage young people and their friends and families to take advantage of the day off of school in Anchorage and other school districts to get outside and play.
“We are encouraging and supporting kids getting out and skating, skiing, walking, or doing anything fun outdoors,” said Andrea Cordano, one of the organizers of the week-long event from Great Alaska Schools Anchorage. “We are always happy when we can support what is healthy for kids!”
If inside play is more appealing, Thursday, Feb. 18, is designated as “Play and Learn Day.” In Anchorage, local child development agencies, public school after-school programs, and municipal library locations will be organizing indoor activities for all ages throughout the day and evening, including story time, music, yoga and more.
The week will end with a “Public School Spirit Day” between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, with a free, fun, outdoor event at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage.
“There will be skating on the lagoon and Nordic skiing around the lagoon, and several dance groups, storytelling groups and music groups from our local schools will be performing, ” said Cordano.  She encouraged everyone to wear their school colors to celebrate their school pride.  A shuttle bus from West High School’s parking lot will help reduce parking headaches for the event.
Details of all planned events for the week are available at
2/9/2016 11:42 AM

Some advertising will tell you that your kids need to replenish their bodies with sports drinks when they get out and play.

They don’t. Drink Water Poster ANTHC.jpg

Leading health organizations that promote children’s
health state that kids only need water to rehydrate when they are playing most sports or being physically active. The
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says “Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to children and adolescents, but in most cases kids don’t need them – and some of these products contain substances that could be harmful to children.”
 “For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” Dr. Holly Benjamin, who was a member of the AAP’s Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, stated in a 2011 report about sports and energy drinks. “Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay.“
Play Every Day is sharing that message in a new TV public service announcement that began airing statewide this month. The PSA features Alaska children playing basketball. Preston Pollard, a professional skateboarder who grew up in Alaska, voices the main message:  Just because you play sports doesn’t mean you need sports drinks. Water and a healthy snack is all you need to bounce back when you get out and play.
Sports drinks have only a small amount of electrolytes — minerals that you lose when you sweat — but they come packed with a large amount of added sugar. A typical 20-ounce sports drink that’s sold on grocery store shelves or in vending machines has about 9 teaspoons of added sugar.
Is 9 teaspoons too much? For the first time, the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans delivered a recommended limit to the amount of added sugar we eat and drink every day. The limit is 10 percent or fewer of total daily calories. That means a moderately active 8-year-old boy should have no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar each day. If he drinks a sports drink on the soccer field, he’s almost reached his added sugar limit in one drink alone — and that doesn’t count all the added sugars in his cereal at breakfast, granola bar at snack, jelly on his sandwich, even spaghetti sauce with dinner.
“When parents choose drinks for their kids, the best choice they can make is water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks,” said Karol Fink, a registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
To learn more about the large amount of sugar hiding in sports drinks and other sugary drinks, visit Play Every Day. Email if you’d like posters and short lesson plans related to sugary drinks for your school, clinic or business.
2/2/2016 9:47 AM

Do your kids go to Craig Elementary or Island Christian Academy – both in the small Southeast city of Craig?

What about North Star Elementary school in Kodiak?
Or Fred Ipalook Elementary up north in Barrow?
Possible photo for HFC blog resized.jpgThese schools are among 20 new elementary schools in all corners of Alaska that have signed up for the spring Healthy Futures Challenge that starts this week. Other new schools that signed up for the free physical activity challenge are in Juneau (Auke Bay, Gastineau, Glacier Valley and Juneau Community Charter) and more remote communities like Thorne Bay, Port Alexander, Hollis and Naukati.
That brings the grand total to 195 elementary schools in 36 school districts that have signed up for the spring Challenge – more schools than have ever signed up for a previous Challenge period. (Healthy Futures and Play Every Day have a goal to sign up 200 elementary schools, so it’s not too late to sign up! Principals or teachers can sign up their schools by visiting the Healthy Futures website.)
Here’s how the challenge works:
In schools that signed up, participating kindergarten through sixth-grade students will hike, bike, jump, run, skate or ski their way to 60 minutes of activity a day. They can count their activity at recess, during gym class, and add in time before and after school and on weekends. If they hit the 60-minute mark at least 15 days of the month and log their activity on a simple form, they will win prizes for each month of the Challenge. The spring challenge runs February, March and April.
There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost physical activities around Alaska to help kids hit their 60-minute goal for the Challenge. Below are a few upcoming events in Anchorage and Palmer.
·        The Stud Run – Sand Lake Elementary in Anchorage is hosting its first Stud Run at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. They’re calling it the “only lake-based winter wellness fun run” that follows a 1.75 mile lap around the frozen Sand Lake. The untimed run/walk, which is a fundraiser for the school, starts and ends near the dock behind Sand Lake Elementary.
·        Nunataq Snowshoe Challenge – Come to the Government Peak Recreation Area in Palmer at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, for the snowshoe challenge. The event includes a free 1K race for kids ages 3-10, with no snowshoes required. “Just line up and have fun!” the website says. Participants also can pay to enter a 5K, 10K and a 50-yard dash.
·        Ski 4 Kids – Sign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids Day on Saturday, March 5. Kids up to age 14 can participate in cross country ski races, obstacle courses and mock biathlons at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. There’s no participant fee for the event, but a recommended $20 donation. Proceeds go to the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s Ski Outreach Program and a grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth groups.
There are many more physical activity events for families in the coming months. Visit the Healthy Futures calendar to find out what’s happening in your community.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-01</hide>January 2016 ‎(4)
1/27/2016 9:05 AM

Tongass School of Arts and Sciences in Ketchikan became the only school in Alaska to receive a national HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) award for 2015.

Emily Henry, the wellness coordinator for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District, said the staff’s commitment to its school translated into a bronze award for creating a healthier school with a smarter lunchroom, and for adding emphasis on physical education and activity.
Tongass School Menu Item Resized.jpg
“The staff is really involved in the success of their students, not only for health, but for academics, too,” Henry said.
Tongass, as part of the Ketchikan school district, is one of a number of schools that have partnered with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity for its young students.
“Healthy students learn better, and we are so excited to see schools like Tongass recognized for their efforts to prevent childhood obesity,” said Lauren Kelsey, who works with the state’s program to help schools improve nutrition and activity.
Tongass, a charter school for about 170 pre-kindergarten through sixth grade children, has added a number of programs during recent years to improve the health of its students.
HealthierUS schools must meet criteria demonstrating commitment to a healthy school environment, including implementing a local school wellness policy, as mandated by Congress.  Tongass follows the Ketchikan school district’s wellness policy, recently updated based on the recommendations of the state’s Gold Standard School Wellness Policy.
HUSSC schools focus on improving the quality of foods served and providing students with nutrition education. The Tongass lunch room now has two salad bars – one for the younger kids and one for the older ones –built according to the shorter heights of the children.
“They are kid-sized, so everything is at their level,” Henry said.
The district’s schools hold a lunch menu contest that allows students to design a menu item. If the food service staff agrees that the item includes healthy portions of dairy, protein, vegetable and other nutritional components, the item gets added to the district’s lunch menu. If the new meal turns out to be both tasty and popular, it continues to be added to the menu. One of those favorite meals came from a Tongass student and includes a vegetable beef stir fry with broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and carrots, alongside a fruit salad of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, cherries and pineapple. That’s four vegetables and six different fruits in just one lunch.
Tongass also addressed some physical activity challenges in unique ways. The charter school shares a building – and a gym – with another school. Its physical education teacher also must spend time as a school counselor. Given that, space and staff-time allows each Tongass student to get 60 minutes a week of physical education time. Tongass staff came up with a number of ways to add to that time, getting students closer to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health. The school is next door to the city’s recreation center, which has a pool. Once a week, all students go to the center for 40 minutes of swimming, Henry said. Even more, the teachers for each grade level are expected to add at least 15 minutes of movement every day to the regular classroom, Henry said. The school also offers extra-curricular clubs for karate and running and weekly enrichment courses to provide additional physical activity time, she said.
Tongass also participates in the Healthy Futures Challenge, a free, school-based physical activity challenge run by the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Tongass is one of almost 200 Alaska elementary schools that offer the challenge during the school year. Children log their physical activity each month on simple forms, turn them in at school, and win prizes for being active. Participating schools also can receive grants to support their physical activity programs.
If your school interested in working toward a HealthierUS School Challenge award, go online and learn how to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools.
1/19/2016 11:52 AM

We’re all about promoting play, so we wanted to learn more about the first-ever PLAAY Summit to be held in Anchorage on Feb. 19 and 20.
Our partner in physical activity — the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame that runs the statewide Healthy Futures Challenge for kids — is presenting the Positive Leadership for Active Alaskan Youth or PLAAY Summit that focuses on using physical activity to improve the health and well-being of Alaska youth. The Summit is geared toward teachers, parents, nurses and health care providers, coaches, and any adults who educate, coach or mentor Alaska youth in sports and other activities. The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is organizing the conference with Alaska physical therapist Wallace “Wally” Wilson, who previously ran the Coaches Clinic that was focused on sports medicine issues for youth.
2016 PLAAY Flyer RESIZED.jpg
"The objective of the PLAAY Summit is to ensure those in leadership positions in our state have the right tools to promote and mentor all that is beneficial about sports and physical activity," said Harlow Robinson, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director.
The Summit will be held from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. Participants will meet in Conference Rooms 1 and 2 of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Consortium Office Building, located at 4000 Ambassador Drive in Anchorage. The registration fee is $150, and University of Alaska Anchorage students and Anchorage School District employees can attend for $50. Registration can be completed online.
The main focus is on physical activity, but speakers also will address psychological and social-emotional development of Alaska youth. Participants will hear a keynote address from Dan Bigley. Professionally, Bigley has a master’s degree in social work and is the clinical director at Denali Family Services. Many people in Alaska also know Bigley’s story of continuing to strive for his passions and goals after surviving a bear attack. Some of the other featured speakers include the following Alaska professionals:
Dr. Jean Marcey, a certified personal trainer, wellness coach and assistant professor who will talk about recognizing and using your strengths;
Robert “Trey” H. Coker, who earned a doctorate in Exercise Science and now teaches at the University of Fairbanks, will talk about the effectiveness of physical activity programs for Alaska Native children living in remote communities;
Lynne Young, a certified athletic trainer, will talk about the risk of concussions;
Eric Boyer, a training coordinator with the University of Alaska, will talk about the importance of physical activity in suicide prevention; and
Haley Hughes, a registered dietitian at Providence Alaska Medical Center, will talk about the best nutrition and hydration options for youth in sports.
Continuing Nursing Education certificates and professional development credits will be available. For more information about the PLAAY Summit, email Wallace Wilson.
1/7/2016 3:17 PM

For the first time, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans has set a limit on the amount of added sugar to eat and drink each day for the best health.

The 2015 guidelines recommend that we limit our added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories we eat and drink each day. Added sugars are sugars, syrups and other sweeteners that are added to foods or drinks when they are processed or prepared. Easy examples are the sugars added to soda, cookies and sweetened breakfast cereals. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars, such as those in plain white milk and whole fruits.
These new guidelines reinforce Play Every Day’s mission to reduce the number of sugary drinks that Alaska children and families consume every day. In Alaska, high consumption of sugary drinks starts at a young age. One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and 2 out of 3 Alaska parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week, according to a recent state survey of hundreds of Alaska parents. Recent statewide surveys also showed that 42 percent of Alaska high school students and adults consume one or more sugary drinks every day.  
DietaryGuidelines.MyPlateMyWinsTips-1.jpgThe national Dietary Guidelines are revised every five years and issued jointly by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. The new guidelines followed a review of the most current science around nutrition and issued recommendations to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. In Alaska, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight and obese, and 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese.
The Dietary Guidelines call for a reduction in how much sugar we eat and drink, but it turns out drinks can contribute the most to our daily sugar intake. Sugary drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugar in Americans’ daily diets. There is strong evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.
For many Americans, the new daily sugar limit will be a big change to how they eat and drink. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day – in their sugary drinks, cereals, snack bars, spaghetti sauce, even condiments like ketchup. In order to meet the new daily limit on added sugars, they would need to significantly cut that sugar intake. According to the guidelines, a person eating an average 2,000-calorie daily diet should limit their daily sugar to about 12.5 teaspoons.
What does that look like?
It turns out you can eat — and drink —12 and a half teaspoons of sugar very quickly. A 20-ounce bottle of soda sold on grocery store shelves and in vending machines can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. Drinking just that one bottle would take you over the daily limit — and that doesn’t even count the rest of the foods and drinks you’ll consume that day. A 16-ounce glass of a powdered orange drink in the morning — a common beverage in Alaska — has about 11 teaspoons of added sugar. Hand a child a sports drink on the soccer field and he’ll drink 9 teaspoons of added sugar in a few big gulps.
Play Every Day’s latest TV public service announcement and poster campaign show how sugar can add up during the day. Drinking a powdered drink for breakfast, a fruit-flavored sugary drink for lunch, a sports drink as a snack, and a can of soda for dinner can add up to 38 teaspoons of sugar from just the drinks alone. That’s more than three times the amount of sugar in the new guidelines’ limit for daily sugar intake.
Added sugars can be tricky to spot because they go by many different names, such as high fructose corn syrup, honey, glucose and sucrose. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredient list on the back of a drink or food container to find all the added sugars. If a sweetener by any name is in the first three ingredients, the food or drink is loaded with added sugars.
To reduce the amount of added sugar you drink every day, choose water or low-fat milk instead of sodas, sports drinks, powdered drinks and other sugary beverages. Make it easier to choose water by carrying a water bottle with you. Pack a water bottle in your child’s backpack or lunch box. Add a bit of flavor to your water by putting slices of lemon or lime or sprigs of mint into your glass.
For more information and tips to choose healthier drinks, visit the Play Every Day website.
1/5/2016 9:55 AM

In its first year, NANANordic took ski gear and coaches to villages in the NANA region to get kids doing something positive outside. They went to four villages and involved 18 coaches and 600 students in 2012.  

Now known as Skiku – a name that attaches the word “ski” to the Inupiaq word for ice – the program reached 40 communities and 4,500 kids from Bethel to Barrow in 2015. The program’s growth and success prompted the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to select Skiku as one of 47 recipients for a PCFSN Community LeadeSkiKuShotBuckland.Resized. For.Jan.5.2016.jpgrship Award for making sports, physical activity, fitness, and nutrition-related programs available in their communities.
Lars Flora, a founder and director of Skiku, expects to reach the same number of students and communities in 2016. They will go to every community they went to last year, plus head to Elim and St. Mary’s for the first time.
The idea is to get kids outside doing something fun and healthy. One of the organization’s New Year’s resolutions is to make sure “every ski in our inventory is being used by community members and students to explore Alaska’s winter landscape,” said Flora, a two-time Olympian in cross-country skiing.
What’s cool, said Robin Kornfield, chairman of Nordic Journeys who has been with Skiku from the beginning, is that many communities already had skiing histories. “When we first started, we didn’t know there were places where people skied and had been doing it for 20 years,” she explained.
People in places like White Mountain and Unalakleet had come to Anchorage and skied in junior nationals, she added. These communities already had Nordic skiing legacies, as shared by Helen Spindler in this video.
What Skiku does is put volunteer coaches who are Olympians, World Cup racers, community coaches and elite high school athletes into villages where they spend a week teaching students how to ski and participate in biathlons, which combine skiing with precision rifle shooting. 
At the same time, the group leaves donated skis, boots and poles with the villages it visits so that community members can use gear whenever the snow flies.
New this year will be a ski race program in the 11 NANA region communities and volunteer involvement in Anchorage elementary schools, noted Kornfield.  
Come March and April, coaches will again travel by plane and skis to communities throughout the state. Here’s the Skiku coaching schedule this year:
·        March 7-11        Nome
·        March 8-15        Kuspuk School District, Bethel, Lower Yukon
·        March 14-18      Bering Strait School District
·        April 4-15          Northwest Arctic Borough School District
·        April 11-21        North Slope 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-12</hide>December 2015 ‎(4)
12/30/2015 9:35 AM

As we cross off the last days on the 2015 calendar, many of us are thinking about how we’re going to make 2016 a great new year. What are we going to do differently, do better, or do more or less often?

Whether you call these resolutions or goals, the trick to making them stick is to set these goals with a few things in mind
·        Set a goal, write it down and create a plan to make it happen.
KikkanBike.jpgHere’s the goal Kikkan Randall recently wrote us about. Kikkan is a 4-time Olympic cross country skier who’s usually globetrotting right now, attacking the World Cup ski racing circuit throughout the winter. But this year is unusual in that she’s spending more time at home in Alaska: Kikkan is pregnant with her first child.
“My fitness goal for 2016 is to get outside and do at least three different winter activities every week,” she said. “Skiing, skating, sledding, snowshoeing and snow biking are some of my favorites!  Mixing up your activities makes playing every day fun and exciting.”
·        Pick one thing you want to focus on and go for it.
Fellow Olympic skier of Alaska, Sadie Bjornsen, said her goal is to enjoy the outdoors every single day.
“Whether I am doing the hardest running intervals, or I am hiking with my family, or I am spending hours on the road roller-skiing, I want to make sure I enjoy each and every breath of fresh air outside that I have,” she said. SadieSkiing.resized.jpg
Did you see how Sadie talked about her family? Another way to help make these resolutions stick is to get other people involved.
·        Share your goal with family and friends.
Sadie said she uses physical activity to chase her Olympic dreams, but also to stay healthy and happy.
“Bring friends, bring your family,” she said. “Share the most natural happy vibes there is in the world!”
12/21/2015 12:10 PM
In the 12 days of fitness, Healthy Futures partners with The Alaska Club in keeping kids motivated about physical activity through The Alaska Club Healthy Futures Winter Challenge.
Kids need to strive for 60 minutes of physical activity on the 12 days of winter break between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3 to complete the challenge. The first 200 kids who register will get stop watches and family day passes to The Alaska Club. Participation is free and doesn’t have to take place at The Alaska Club.
Last year, 300 kids participated, said Janet Warner, the executive director of Group Fitness, Fitness Programming and Family Recreation for The Alaska Club. “This year we changed the requirements slightly to align with the recommendation of 60 minutes of play each day or most days,” she added.
KidSkiingSmileDec.21.jpgKids can choose how and where they want to get moving, whether outside or in, by ice skating, sledding, swimming, dancing, doing yoga, just getting outside, or playing soccer, volleyball, or freeze tag.
Families can also stay active during the darkest days of the year by joining in community fun runs and events, or just making a point of going for walks together.
Alyse Loran, the Healthy Futures Coordinator, suggests skating, skiing and joining group activities. She lives in Anchorage, for example, and noted that the Municipality of Anchorage plans to hot mop Westchester Lagoon. There are rinks all around town, she added, but it pays to check ice conditions before heading out the door. The city also has a winter activity guide with more options.
“The snow making loop at Kincaid is great right now,” said Loran. “And the Hillside trails are ready for rock skis [old skis you don’t mind banging up!]. Just a little more snow and we should be skiing everywhere again.”
12/14/2015 8:34 AM
Elementary schools across Alaska can sign up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starting today.
If your school is interested, don’t wait too long to sign up. Healthy Futures will be registering schools online on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14. The free physical activity challenge will run February through April and award prizes to K-6 students who log their physical activity and turn in activity logs at the end of each month. This fall, 160 schools from 36 school districts in Alaska participated in the Challenge.
2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo Resized for blog.jpg
Play Every Day is partnering with Healthy Futures to reach the goal of registering 200 elementary schools from across the state for the Spring Challenge. Schools that sign up early will have a chance to win some great prizes, including a gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, as well as Healthy Futures and Play Every Day T-shirts for students and staff.
Play Every Day and Healthy Futures have partnered for the past four years to help empower Alaska’s kids to build the healthy habit of daily physical activity. Just four years ago, only 36 elementary schools and about 1,300 individual students participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge. This fall, more than 15,700 individual students participated in the 160 schools. That’s more than 1 in 5 elementary-age students in Alaska logging their physical activity to meet the challenge.
Sign up your school today to help more Alaska kids have a free, fun way to be physically active every day – and win prizes along the way.
12/1/2015 12:29 PM

Can having your class film a short video about choosing water instead of sugary drinks have an effect that goes beyond the work done in the classroom?

Julie Yates’ third grade class at Craig Elementary School showed that the answer is yes. Definitely.
To participate in Play Every Day’s second video contest for Alaska elementary schools, Yates’ class needed to come up with a script and then film a 30-second video about why water and low-fat milk are healthier drinks than sugary beverages, like soda, powdered mixes and sports drinks. Their video won second place in the contest.
2015-PSA-2-Place-Craig.pngWhile producing their video, Yates and her 14 students accepted a bigger challenge. They decided they would only drink healthy drinks, like water and milk, during the weeks it took them to film the project.
Yates said one student took that challenge home with him. His family went out for pizza once a week, the one time a week his mother allowed him to pick any drink he wanted, even soda. The boy told his mother he’d have milk instead. When the question came up again about what he wanted to drink, the boy stuck to his plan. No soda. Just milk.
The health message the class focused on in their video “sunk in so well,” said Yates.
Yates’ class worked hard to make that message sink in. Yates tied health class into the video project. She invited a local woman who was a public health professional to do a presentation about healthy and unhealthy drinks. She showed the students how many teaspoons of sugar were hiding in sugary drinks. (The answer is a lot. Check out the Play Every Day poster series that compares the amount of added sugar in common treats — think doughnuts, cookies, and ice cream sandwiches — and sugary drinks like sodas, sports drinks and more.)
Yates then added math to the project. The students were focusing on estimation, so she asked each student to think of a sugary drink they liked and estimate how much sugar it contained. They talked about chocolate shakes, sports drinks and other sugary beverages.  Then they researched how much actual sugar was added to these drinks. They plotted their drinks and the added teaspoons of sugar on a bar graph to compare them.
“They were just astonished,” said Yates, referring to her students’ discovery of how much sugar was hiding in their drinks. “Several of them went home and shared it with their parents.”
Yates then brought in the music teacher. The students had to come up with a script. What if the script incorporated a jingle and some rhythm to make the words more fun? The students practiced a routine in which they drummed on empty cups and passed them around in a circle. While doing that, they sang their message:
“Sugar, sugar everywhere. Let’s compare, let’s compare. How much sugar is in your cup? Too much sugar, you’ll go amok.
“Water and a healthy snack is all it takes to bounce right back.”
Yates, who has been teaching for 20 years at the Craig City School District, said she’s always looking for activities that challenge and engage her students in many ways. That’s why the Play Every Day video contest attracted her when she saw an announcement for it.
“My class is just hungry and thirsty for activities,” she said. “They have a lot of energy and motivation. I was just wanting to take an opportunity like this to see where they could go with it.”
They stuck with it until the end. They did what the project asked – film a video – but in the process they learned about math, music and other important subjects.
“I think that’s what really makes it so meaningful,” Yates said.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-11</hide>November 2015 ‎(3)
11/24/2015 2:20 PM

When Marisa Glieco saw the announcement for the Play Every Day video contest for Alaska elementary schools, she decided to put it to a classroom vote.

Glieco, the fifth grade teacher at Lake Otis Elementary in the Anchorage School District, asked her 30 students to raise their hands if they wanted to create a 30-second video promoting water and low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks like soda, powdered mixes and sports drinks.
School-PSA-Poster-2015.resized.jpgAlmost every hand in the class went up.
That started it, and from there Glieco’s class got to work on what would be the winning entry for this year’s Play Every Day video contest for Alaska elementary schools.
One of the rules of the contest was to put the kids in charge of the final video, and that’s exactly what Glieco did.
She asked her students to write down the top three jobs they wanted in film production, and then write a letter to her explaining why they’d be good at those jobs. They vied for jobs like designing the props, putting together the costumes, auditioning the actors, filming the video on iPads, even editing the final video. The students took charge of the entire production.  Glieco just provided direction when needed, but even then she had two students who were picked as the video directors and they took charge of managing all steps from start to finish.
“For the most part, I wanted to give them ownership,” said Glieco, the only teacher in Alaska to participate in the Play Every Day video contest two years in a row. Last year, her third and fourth grade class turned in a creative video using Lego animation to show all the fun ways you could get your 60 minutes of physical activity every day. During the past two years, eight schools in five Alaska school districts turned in videos promoting physical activity and healthy drinks during Play Every Day’s video contests designed for elementary schools.
Glieco’s whole class brainstormed ideas for the video’s script this year. Maybe they should include a water-bottle super hero? What if they included Glieco’s dog in the video? Would that work?
“I was really proud of them,” she said. “It was just really neat to see their creativity come out.”
In the end, the Lake Otis class turned in two videos.  One film was a play on an existing candy bar commercial, but this time the focus was on showing that water — not sugary drinks — satisfies. The second, winning video was a play on a game show, asking students to name the healthiest beverages to quench their thirst. After mistakenly guessing soda and juice, the student in the role of the game show host announces that water is the best drink to hydrate us when we’re thirsty. She then announces that it’s time for a message from our sponsors, and the video cuts to a group of students playing outside. A boy runs up to a bottle of water and drinks it, while words about water are spoken at a very fast-paced clip:
“The positive side effects for drinking water is you stay hydrated, it gives you power, and helps you avoid cavities. It is better than any other sports drinks, soda, or juice. Finally if you drink water you will be able to play every day!”
This speedy read about water was student Arlin Galovin’s idea. He’d seen it done at the end of ads promoting medicines, and he wanted to try it on their video promoting water.
“I thought it would be funny, and people would laugh,” he said. (For the record, the Play Every Day judges scoring this video laughed very hard.)
Students said working on the video project taught them how to work together and complete a project as a class. They had fun while learning how to do their jobs to finish the video. They also learned that some drinks are marketed as healthy, but they’re often not.
“When they say in commercials it’s a healthy drink, it’s really not,” said student Cizzne Mendoza. “There’s sugar in it.”
Instead, the students said, drinking water or milk is better for you than drinking sugary drinks — a message made clear in their winning video.
11/17/2015 1:06 PM

We walk by water fountains all day long. They’re in the hallways at school. They’re in our offices. They’re next to the bathrooms at the stores where we shop.

Why stop, rather than walk by them?
Play Every Day has the answer in a colorful poster that reminds you about how refreshing water tastes and how hydrating it is.  Water’s free at the fountain, after all, and you can drink it right there or put it in a cup or water bottle for later. Better yet, it hydrates without added sugars.
DrinkWaterResized.jpgPlay Every Day’s new “Drink Water” poster aims to put its very simple message above water fountains or water-bottle filling stations in schools and other facilities throughout Alaska to encourage people to drink up or fill up. This message is key to Play Every Day’s campaign focused on motivating Alaska families to drink fewer sugary drinks (like soda, sports drinks and powdered mixes) and choose water, fat-free milk or low-fat milk instead.
With the help of our partner, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, we sent our “Drink Water” posters to hundreds of rural and urban Alaska schools, tribal partners, public health clinics, and Community Health Aide and Dental Health Aide clinics.
Would you like “Drink Water” posters to hang in your school, office or building? You can download the posters for free in various sizes and formats, or request printed posters to be sent to you. Just visit our Resources website and see what educational materials are available at no cost.
Once at the site, you’ll find our video public service announcements (PSAs) focused on drinking fewer sugary drinks and choosing water, fat-free milk or low-fat milk instead. Some clinics in Alaska are running these PSAs in their waiting rooms. Please let us know if you’d like these PSAs on discs to be aired in your buildings.
You’ll also find our print materials and our sugary drinks lesson plan designed for Alaska elementary schools. Part of the lesson plan is online here. If you’re an educator and haven’t received a copy of the complete lesson plan, or you’re someone looking for printed posters and other materials, please email us at We’ll send you the plan and any other materials that will help share the message about the importance of choosing water or milk instead of sugary drinks for the best health.
11/3/2015 10:29 AM

Sidney C. Huntington School in Galena is one of the newest schools to sign up for the free Healthy Futures Challenge, and the students in this small Interior village are taking it seriously — very seriously.

Teacher Jared Carlson reported 100 percent participation by his 57 students in elementary and middle school for the month of September. He’s planning for 100 percent participation for October, too.

HFC log.jpgCarlson, the physical education teacher in Galena, taught in Unalakleet last year and watched the students there participate in the physical activity challenge, which encourages young students to be active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. If students log that activity and turn their log sheets into their schools, they can win prizes and the school can be eligible for grants that support buying physical activity equipment.
“I wanted to find a way to encourage the kids to move every day,” Carlson said. “All of them did it.”
One student moved to Galena after the Challenge had started this fall. Carlson said he had forgotten to tell the student about the Challenge, but no matter: The other classmates made sure the new student knew about it and gave him a log sheet to fill out.
The Fall Challenge will run through November in schools throughout the state. Though the Challenge started in mainly urban school districts in Alaska like Anchorage and Juneau, it has spread to communities small and large in 35 school districts during the past four years.
This year, the nonprofit program Healthy Futures and the state-run Play Every Day campaign partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to promote daily physical activity and increased Healthy Futures participation in schools in rural, and often remote, areas of the state. As a result, new schools signed up from communities on the Aleutians Islands all the way to villages above the Arctic Circle. About 185 Alaska elementary schools have signed up for the Fall Challenge.
About 11,000 elementary students across Alaska have already been logging their physical activity this fall. Elementary schools in Savoonga and Kiana participated for the first time this fall, with about a third of students in both schools turning in physical activity logs. Ketchikan Charter School reported high participation, with 95 of 128 students turning in physical activity logs, said Alyse Loran, who oversees the Challenge for the Healthy Futures program.
In Galena, Carlson makes participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge a part of the students’ physical education grade. His elementary students get the nationally recommended amount of physical education of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Students also get 15 minutes of daily recess. After that, students find their own way to put in the remaining minutes of activity to meet the 60-minute daily goal for good health. Carlson said they’ve logged their time hiking, fishing, playing soccer, playing hide and seek, even moose hunting.
“Basketball is huge,” he said. Galena also has an indoor swimming pool, which helps the kids stay active throughout the year.
To show support, Carlson fills out a Healthy Futures log and puts it on his classroom door. He writes down his time participating in physical education class, playing volleyball, and walking to and from school – a 2 ½ mile trek each way.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-10</hide>October 2015 ‎(3)
10/28/2015 11:18 AM

It’s just one soda with dinner. What’s the harm?

That’s the opening line of Play Every Day’s newest public service announcement running on Alaska TV stations.
In just 30 seconds, the PSA flashes back to the sugary drinks a boy consumes at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. At the same time, a split screen shows the sugar adding up in a glass. By the end, the boy consumes 38 teaspoons of sugar, almost a cup, just from sugary drinks that day. The take-home message is to skip all those sugary drinks and choose water or low-fat milk for the best health.
DrinkWaterResized.jpgPlay Every Day is using its message to bring attention to sugary drinks, the No. 1 source of added sugar in our daily diets. The American Heart Association has set limits for how much sugar adults should eat or drink, namely 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That’s less sugar than what you’d find in a single can of soda, or a bottle of a sports drink or a fruit-flavored drink.
The campaign goes beyond raising awareness and inspires families to reduce the amount of sugary drinks served to children. Sugary drinks are linked with a number of serious health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. In Alaska, one out of three children is overweight or obese and two out of three adults are overweight or obese. 
Play Every Day’s new sugary drink messages build on last year’s about how much sugar was hiding in sugary drinks. Those messages put sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and powdered drinks alongside easily recognizable food comparisons. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda could contain as much sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts, and a 20-ounce sports drink could have as much sugar as 10 chocolate chip cookies.
We’ve created a new set of posters that match the new TV messages and have sent them to hundreds of Alaska schools, health clinics and tribal partners. We also created and posted a new school lesson plan that involves showing students the PSA and using a special pop-up poster to show how sugar adds up during the day. The videos, posters, print materials, and lesson plan are posted online. To request a printed lesson plan or any other Play Every Day material, please email
The Play Every Day campaign also focuses on the importance of daily physical activity for the best health and maintaining a healthy weight. The campaign promotes at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and supports participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge, a free school-based physical activity challenge. It’s not too late for elementary schools to sign up for the challenge online.
10/13/2015 9:44 AM

Kids might groan about running the mile, but they’ll run plenty of them when playing games like tag and capture the flag with friends. That’s what the Girls on the Run program counts on.

Now in over 225 cities in North America, Girls on the Run focuses on getting pre-adolescent girls physically active through group games and activities while helping them build a strong sense of identity, power and resilience.
Already in Juneau and Homer, the program launched in Cordova this fall and will finish its first session with a community-wide 5K fun run on Oct. 31. Nicole Songer, a volunteer coach and executive director for the Cordova Family Resource Center, said the girls love it. “They’re learning things through games, they’re getting exercise through activities, and they don’t even realize they’re running a lot.”
CordovaGirlsontheRun.Oct13.2015.jpgIn Cordova the program will help girls get the recommended 60 minutes of Play Every Day and contribute to domestic and sexual violence prevention. The Family Resource Center received a one-time prevention grant from the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to start the program, which typically includes up to 20 girls per session.
“I have seen in these few short weeks girls that would barely speak sharing their views and ideas,” said Songer. Other girls who weren’t getting out and having fun with friends were now “creating a new support group of peers and adults.”
They also learn their differences and embrace them, come to understand what teamwork and friendship mean, and learn to “unplug the negative plug.” That means countering the negative self-talk kids get exposed to on TV, radio and social media – the “you’re not good enough” messages that bombard kids and can become the stories they begin to believe about themselves.
All kids get these messages and need guidance in knowing how to combat them. Cordova has had a basketball program for boys through the Choose Respect Initiative for a few years now.
“We would hear people say, ‘What about the girls?’” said Songer. Now she has the answer; the he community has a positive plug for them, too.

To start a program, communities need to organize a council, get adult volunteers to coach, and submit an initial application and membership fee to the nonprofit, Girls on the Run International, at


Photo courtesy of the Cordova Family Resource Center.

Caption: Girls on the Run group talks about bullying and how to address it during a lesson between physical activities.  

10/6/2015 12:03 PM

Attention all fourth graders in Alaska. This is your lucky year!

To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, fourth graders and their families can receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that gives free access to hundreds of national parks, lands and waters for one year. Each pass says “Use as often as you like through August 2016.”
“Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters – these places are your birthright as Americans,” said President Barack Obama on the Every Kid in a Park website.
8-USFWS-Canoe-Alaska.Resized500x.Oct.13.15.jpgPresident Obama recently hiked and boated near glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park during his visit to Alaska, a state with 23 national parks, preserves, historic areas and monuments. Want some ideas of where to go?
·        Denali – Visit the park with North America’s tallest peak.
·        Gates of the Arctic – Looking for a park with no roads or trails? This would be it.
·        Glacier Bay – This park is loaded with a variety of habitats, from glaciers to rainforests.
·        Katmai – Brown bears can put on quite a show in this park.
·        Kenai Fjords – By foot or by boat, see glaciers, animals and all the bounty of the fjords.
·        Kobuk Valley – Did you know you can find sand dunes in Alaska?
·        Lake Clark- Explore an area with steaming volcanoes and turquoise-colored lakes.
·        Wrangell – St. Elias – Spend time in America’s largest national park at 13.2 million acres.
Here’s how fourth-grade students, or 10-year-olds, can get a “Every Kid in a Park” pass.
1.   Go online to complete a short activity.
2.   After completing the activity, you’ll get a voucher for a free 4th Grade Annual Pass. (If you want, you can exchange your paper vouchers for a keepsake pass at certain national park locations.)
3.   Print the vouchers.
4.   Pick a park! Take your voucher with you to show to the park ranger at the entrance to any national park. If there’s no park ranger, you can put the pass on the dashboard of your family’s car.
11-NPS-Minute Man NHP.Resized500x.Oct.13.15.jpgYou and your families will have free access to the national parks through August 30, 2016. If you visit a national park site that charges entrance fees, the pass will give you free access to all children under 16 years old and up to three adults traveling with the fourth-grader. The pass does not cover camping, boats and special tours.

Now, if you’re in fourth grade, don’t delay. Get online and take just five minutes to get a year’s worth of free fun and adventure in America’s national parks.


Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Laubenstein, Ronald.

Bottom photo courtesy of National Park Service.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-09</hide>September 2015 ‎(5)
9/29/2015 9:29 AM

In student-made videos from last year’s Play Every Day PSA contest, kids shared the many ways they like to play – skiing, running, dancing, playing tag, climbing, zig-zagging over the playground, and just goofing off in the snow.

This year’s PSA contest invites students from Alaska public elementary schools to tackle a different message about how sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and powdered drinks can add up to weight gain, tooth decay and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The main message is simple: drink water instead. 
School-PSA-Poster-2015.jpgMarisa Glieco’s third- and fourth-grade class at Lake Otis Elementary created a video last year. As the class came up with ideas and produced the PSA, she noticed how much kids really do care about their healthy and unhealthy habits, and how they want to share what they’re doing to improve their health.
“I really enjoyed watching the students work together and learn from one another,” she said.  “I believe that this is just a great relatable interactive way to get our students involved with the promotion of healthy habits.”
Her fifth-grade class this year has already narrowed their ideas down to two and will plot them out to see which will work in the 30-second time frame. She pretty much leaves everything from the brainstorming to the editing to the kids.
“They are brilliant and I love how they come up with ideas and piggy back off each other,” she said, “as well as how they start to find out what they would like to do - costume design, set design, directing, acting. It really is something that is difficult to explain - it is just such a passion project for myself and them - that all comes together organically.”
Students from public schools all over the state submitted 11 videos last year, and Play Every Day hopes to see even more this time around.
Creators of the top three videos, along with their schools, will receive gift cards or other prizes that support getting physically active and drinking water. Their PSAs will also appear as public service announcements online and through social media.
The PSA contest is open to all public elementary students and is free to enter. The deadline is 5 p.m., Oct. 30, 2015, and forms and rules are available at Play Every Day.
9/22/2015 10:52 AM

This fall, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) started a new partnership with Play Every Day to get messages about physical activity and healthy drinks to families in rural communities, including some of the most remote communities in the state.

The goal of the Play Every Day campaign is to prevent and reduce childhood obesity — a serious health concern throughout Alaska. About 1 out of 3 children in Alaska is overweight or obese, and 2 out of 3 Alaska adults are overweight or obese. This puts thousands of Alaskans of all ages at risk for weight-related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Our vision at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is that Alaska Native people are the healthiest in the world. Partnering with Play Every Day is a natural fit as we are both working toward the same goal — to prevent serioKeep a Healthy Smile Poster ANTHC. Resized 500x.jpgus chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues that can affect Alaskans from childhood all the way into adulthood,” said Erin Peterson, Wellness Strategies for Health Program Manager with ANTHC. “Play Every Day will be able to share educational materials that promote good health with families from Ketchikan to Unalaska to Point Hope.”
To improve the health of Alaska families, Play Every Day has focused its messages on two key areas: increasing the amount of physical activity that families get each day and reducing the number of sugary drinks they consume (think sodas, sports and energy drinks, powdered drinks and more).
In August and September, ANTHC helped Play Every Day air a TV public service announcement promoting 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health. The PSA also encourages children to participate in the free Healthy Futures Challenge.
ANTHC, Play Every Day and Healthy Futures are working together to increase the number of students who take the physical activity challenge that asks students to be active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. Students can add up all their activity each day — including activity during gym class and recess — to reach the 60-minute goal. Students and schools will win prizes for their participation. Elementary schools throughout Alaska can still sign up for the challenge.  
This month, about 100 schools in rural Alaska and Alaska Native tribal partners will receive Play Every Day posters to hang as reminders for being physically active and choosing water instead of sugary drinks. These posters are all found online here. If you’d like posters to hang in your school, office or business, please email
9/15/2015 9:20 AM

Anchorage will get some well-deserved national attention at the White House in a Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties event Sept. 16 that will acknowledge Anchorage and 51 other cities for obtaining five gold medals in five core obesity prevention areas.

Let’s Move! is a comprehensive obesity prevention initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010. Anchorage Assembly Vice-Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson and Chief Fiscal Officer Alden Thern will represent Anchorage at the gathering.
Gray-Jackson will even get the honor of introducing the First Lady.

This recognition of Anchorage’s efforts to reduce obesity results from a task force launched by Gray-Jackson and fellow Assembly member Dick Traini in grayjackson-6839.croppedx500.jpgFebruary 2014. The group included advocates and representatives from nonprofits, the Anchorage School District, community groups, and state and municipal agencies (including Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program and Play Every Day campaign). The task force documented and helped implement programs that met five Let’s Move! goals:
·         Start Early, Start Smart
·         MyPlate, Your Place
·         Smart Servings for Students
·         Model Food Service
·         Active Kids at Play
“Because of obesity prevention activities already taking place, mostly through efforts of the State and the Anchorage School District, the task force reached its goals in record time,” said Gray-Jackson. “I was impressed to see our community, with such high obesity numbers, taking the lead to improve the situation. Because Anchorage is one of the few cities reaching gold in all five goals, it really puts our community on the map. We are leaders in the Far North.” 
Obesity Prevention has come a long way, said Melanie Sutton, the Curriculum Coordinator for Health & Physical Education with the Anchorage School District. “The recognition of these accomplishments through the Let's Move! Anchorage awards is an affirmation that our efforts have been in the right direction,” she said.
The same day that Gray-Jackson introduces the First Lady, kids in Anchorage and Eagle River will be running in the Beach Lake Area Jamboree at Chugiak High School. The Anchorage School District elementary Jamborees will draw over 6,000 elementary students and even volunteers to cross-country trails across the city this week, according to Sutton.
Allowing kids to do what gives them joy makes all the difference in developing lifetime habits around physical activity, said Dr. Pete Mjos, a physician and advocate who participated in the recent task force. He hopes that national recognition will draw local attention to the 2006 Municipality of Anchorage Ten Year Plan on Obesity and Health.
The plan provides a rigorous strategy for increasing physical activity, improving access to nutritional food, and creating safe and accessible environments for people to get out and play, he said. “For me, the most significant thing is beyond the goal of getting recognized. What has been achieved and recognized should only be the foundation of what still needs to be done and implemented.”
Photo: Assembly Vice-Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson
9/9/2015 9:11 AM

Last fall we tried something new. We asked Alaska kids to pick up a video camera and film students choosing fun ways to get out and play.

It was a hit. We received 11 videos from all over the state, so we’re doing it again this year.
With a twist.School-PSA-Poster-2015.jpg
This year, Play Every Day’s video PSA contest challenges elementary school students across Alaska to film a video that motivates kids to put down sugary drinks and choose water or low-fat milk. The contest starts now and the deadline for entries is Friday, October 30.
Play Every Day has been airing PSAs, or public service announcements, on TV for the past year that focus on the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks. It’s not just soda that’s loaded with sugar. Sports and energy drinks, powdered drinks, and vitamin-enhanced drinks come with large amounts of sugar that can lead to serious health problems, like tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. Our PSAs end with our take-home message: Choose healthier drinks. Drink water or low-fat milk.
Our PSAs are all online here. If you held the camera to tell the story, what would your PSA look like?
You have a chance to show us during the next two months. Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to choose water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and powdered drinks.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 30, 2015.
Where: Film at your school or in your communities.
Why: Kids have creative ideas, and we want to see how you would help spread the message about the importance of choosing healthy drinks.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus Play Every Day T-shirts and a reusable Play Every Day water cup for participating students, teachers and the principal. Prizes also are available for the second- and third-place entries.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
We can’t wait to see what you create!
9/1/2015 3:02 PM

It’s time to lace up those sneakers, zip up that coat and head outside to play. The Healthy Futures Challenge begins this week with a brand new goal for thousands of Alaska kids:

To complete the Challenge, students will do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
HFC photo option 2 Cropped 500x.jpg
This fall, more than 180 Alaska elementary schools — including 61 elementary schools in the Anchorage School District — signed up for the free Healthy Futures Challenge. Participating kindergarten through sixth-grade students will hike, bike, jump, run, skate or ski their way to 60 minutes of activity a day. They can count their activity at recess, during gym class, and add in time before and after school and on weekends. If they hit the 60-minute mark at least half the days of the month and log their activity on a simple form, they will win prizes for each month of the Challenge.
“We’re trying to help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. 
It’s not too late for Alaska elementary schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge, which runs September, October and November. Principals or teachers can sign up their schools by visiting the Healthy Futures website this fall.
There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost physical activities around Alaska to help kids hit their 60-minute goal for the Challenge. Families in the Anchorage area can participate in the Tuesday Night Race series, which kicks off on Sept. 8 at Kincaid Park and ends Nov. 3. The series has races for all types of runners, including the youngest participants — called Munchkins — who run and walk a 1-3K course through the woods.
The popular Anchorage School District Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees also count. Many schools prepare for these free fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs; ask your children’s schools how they’re participating.
Here’s the schedule for upcoming Jamborees:
·        Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
·        South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 19, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
·        North Anchorage Jamboree – Monday, Sept. 21, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m. 
There are many more physical activity events scheduled all over Alaska. Visit the Healthy Futures calendar to find out what’s happening in your community.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-08</hide>August 2015 ‎(2)
8/26/2015 11:19 AM

Everyone knows the feeling. You can barely keep your eyes open, you keep forgetting things, your energy is low and the minutes take forever to pass — all signs that you didn’t get enough sleep.

With kids, though, inadequate sleep can look a lot different.

“It’s generally the opposite,” said Dr. Ross William Dodge, a pediatric sleep specialist at PEAK Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Anchorage.
“If a 6-year-old misses a nap, they bounce off the walls. The presentation of sleep deprivation is hyperactivity, behavioral opposition — they don’t pay attention, they don’t listen, they don’t do well in school.”GirlHeadInHands350x.jpg

A sleep deficit limits a child’s ability to cope with stress, solve problems and focus on school work, said Rita Kittoe, a public health nurse. An ongoing lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, a reduced ability to fight off colds, and aggressive or inappropriate behavior, she added.
“The body spends 20 to 30 years sleeping over the lifetime,” said Dr. Bill Lucht of the Alaska Sleep Clinic. “It’s not just an accident. Sleep conserves energy. It allows the processing of emotional content. It restores brain function and memory. It allows the body to replenish itself and do reparative work.”
Simply put, a chronic lack of sleep impacts all the body systems, said Dodge, and can create a constant state of inflammation that leads to the digestive system’s poor processing of food and a resulting craving for carbohydrates. The cycle continues when weight gain leads to insufficient sleep, and insufficient sleep to more weight gain.
The amount of sleep people need varies and changes with age, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that school-age children get at least 10 hours a day.
Nationally, between 30 percent and 40 percent of children have some consistent sleep-related complaint, Dodge said, and about 10 to 12 percent have some form of organic or physical sleep problem.
Inadequate sleep in kids can have lifelong health impacts. It affects their response time, as well as their ability to learn and make decisions — increasing the risk of accidents, said Lucht. The metabolic effects can lead to obesity and diabetes, he added, and people who don’t get enough sleep tend to have more social problems and lower incomes than those who do.
What’s a parent to do? Dr.DodgeHeadShot (2013).jpeg

“It’s very, very basic what you do,” said Dodge. “Kids have a hard time when presented with multiple options. That’s where the parents need to set a bedtime routine that doesn’t vary. That doesn’t mean you have to set an alarm clock and have a rigorous schedule, but the general motions need to stay pretty set. Kids will fall into the routine themselves once it becomes a pattern in the household.”
(Photo: Dr. Ross Dodge) 
It can take weeks for everyone in the house to adapt to new routines, but pushing through the hard part will reap great rewards for the entire family. If a child still has problems after following a healthy bedtime routine, talk to a pediatrician or sleep doctor. There could be a medical solution.
Keep in mind that some kids, such as extreme high performers and children with autism, Down syndrome or behavioral disorders, have higher rates of sleep disorders.
Sleep problems are worse now than ever before, said Dr. Lucht, which
“probably reflects the pressures of society, of constantly being in touch with work, of not being able to get away from the office.”
Don’t ignore the symptoms or wait until sleep problems become substantial.  Set a bedtime routine and stick to it; create an environment where noise, light and other factors don’t get in the way of falling to sleep; and see a doctor if sleep problems continue after weeks of following a good routine.
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just make waking up easier; it prepares us for the challenges each day brings.

Learn more about how sleep impacts health at the National Sleep Foundation and the CDC.


Photo courtesy of Dr. Ross William Dodge.

8/18/2015 10:06 AM

Pamela Skogstad of Hope, Alaska, created a special ball. 

She filled it with steel birdshot to give it sound. The weight made the ball roll slower, so it wouldn’t travel too far when kicked.
Just like that, she adapted a ball that shows just how easy and simple it can be to help children of all abilities get physically active.
Skogstad with adapted ball.jpgFor the past 25 years, Skogstad has worked with children in school districts all over Alaska to help physical education teachers and teacher assistants learn how to make physical activity possible for all children, regardless of their physical, emotional or social abilities. Adapting the ball is just one example.  
Growing up in Wisconsin, Skogstad knew from a young age that there was a big demand for professionals to help children with disabilities get physically active. “I realized that — and it was really obvious — that kids with disabilities were excluded from activities and sports,” said Skogstad.  
Why? Because teachers and teaching assistants do not have training in how to include children with disabilities in physical activity, she said, and if they do not have knowledge about disabilities, the expectation and need for play, and activities that should be avoided, it can be difficult and unsettling for them to include children with disabilities.
Skogstad, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in adaptive physical education, has partnered with the Alaska Health and Disability Program to visit school districts in Juneau, Fairbanks, Alaska Gateway, Barrow, Kodiak and other regions in Alaska to show PE teachers and teacher assistants how to modify physical activities to include all children. Children of all abilities, she said, benefit from physical activity. It’s all about understanding children’s needs and finding ways to make activity happen for them.
If the whole class is going for a walk, a student who uses a walker can still be involved. He may be able to walk only a quarter of the distance, but he’s still being active with his classmates and friends.
“That’s huge for this student,” Skogstad said.
Skogstad said teachers need to pay special consideration to weather. A child with spina bifida, a birth defect which affects the spinal cord, may have limited sensation of cold temperatures when playing outside.
“You have to really pay attention because they can get frostbite really easy,” Skogstad said.
Kids who struggle with sensory issues, such as children with autism, benefit from partnering with peers during physical activity, she said. Sometimes Skogstad works with children who have many health care needs, such as requiring a wheelchair, suctioning of the airway, and breathing with an oxygen tank.
“This student cannot tell you, ‘Man, it would really be great if I could just stretch my arms,’” she said, but stretching is exactly what that student needs. Skogstad can train PE teachers how to use large balls and other tools to help these children move. 
To learn more about Skogstad’s work, visit

Photo of Pam Skogstad with adapted ball, courtesy of Pam Skogstad.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-07</hide>July 2015 ‎(3)
7/31/2015 2:45 PM

Alaskans learn quickly that summers are short and it’s best to get out and enjoy the glorious days while we have them.

There are so many fun and healthy family activities that we lose count.
August, for example is “running month.” Mosquitoes are almost gone, cottonwoods have seeded, grass is still green and the clover is blooming along running trails.
Anchorage’s Big Wild Life Runs extend over several days from Aug. 13–15 with running events for all levels and ages, including a pasta feed, and inspiring clinics.
If you and your family are already into running, then you’re no doubt aware of the variety of runs available. But, if you are just getting into the occasional jog, and you would like to include your children in a healthy family activity, Big Wild Life Runs is just for you.
 Big.Wild.Life. Marathon 2014-kids-with-medals-960x320.jpg
“Hundreds of kids come out for a chance to get some exercise, meet inspiring athletes in our community and participate in the Family Health and Safety Day on the Delaney Park Strip,” said Race Director Sharron Fisherman.
VIP guests this year are Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso, and you can do a “run/walk” with them both mornings, Aug. 13 and 14, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Hotel Captain Cook Lobby, 939 W. Fifth Ave.
Galloway, a 1972 U.S. Olympian (10,000 meters), is a Runner’s World magazine columnist and has run for more than 50 years, over 30 without injury. Yasso is the Chief Running Officer (sounds like a great job!) for Runner’s World and has completed races on all seven continents.
Now for the main event on Aug. 15:
The Kids’ 2K (about 1.2 miles) fun run starts at the Delaney Park Strip near 9th Ave. and G St. at 9:30 a.m., followed by Family Health and Safety Day. Each kid receives a hat and a medal. The event is free, but all participants must register and receive their bibs before the start of the race. Parents may run with their kids and do not need to register. Sign up at ChronoTrack Live. Children must be 12 years of age or younger to participate.

There are too many great events and runs for teens and adults to list here – from the mile run to the 49K ultra – so find the one that fits your family and sign up now.

Photo courtesy Big Wild Life Runs

7/22/2015 4:16 PM

The forests, wetlands, and fields of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks provide a remarkable space for witnessing the diversity of wild lands and wildlife while getting the family outside.

With 2,000 acres, 150 within the city of Fairbanks, the refuge includes accessible trails, bird viewing areas, interpretive materials, and the farmhouse and barns once occupied by the Interior’s largest dairy.
“There is a huge range of habitats in this small area,” said Christine Huff, executive director of Friends of Creamer’s Field, a nonprofit that runs camps, events, nature walks and other eduCreamers-hrm-photobyHerbMelchoir.jpgcational activities in the refuge. “It’s really a pretty unique place. Some people have likened it to Central Park. It’s a chance to feel like you’re getting into the wilderness for a little bit — there’s a whole lot here to see in such a small space.”
Depending on timing, you might see migratory birds, foxes, woodchucks, even a distant moose while wandering through forests with birch, aspen, poplar, tamarack, and spruce. Educational materials cover topics like the role of wildland fire, an explanation of permafrost, and an overview of some of the changes caused by people.
Last week, the refuge reopened the Boreal Forest Trail, which suffered damage during last year’s flooding. “We had so much rain last summer, and parts of our refuge are parts of old riverbed channels, so we have boardwalks that washed out,” explained Huff.
Creamer'sFieldboardwalkrepair.byCraigDorman.jpgThe trails only cover a small portion of the refuge but include an array of habitats from the boreal forest to wetlands and farm roads. Winter snow and ice make much more of the refuge accessible through 40 miles of multi-use trails created by the skijoring and mushing communities. Use of the trails is free.
Nature walks and other activities are free and take place all year, and virtually all activities focus on families and a full range of age groups. 
Daily nature hikes will continue through the summer at 10 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and then reduce to twice a week in September. Major events include the upcoming Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival August 28 – 30.

Find out more about the refuge programs and activities by perusing the website or calling (907) 452-5162, where you can also ask about tours of the dairy and current farming operations. You also can visit Friends of Creamer’s Field on Facebook.


Top photo by Herb Melchoir; bottom photo by Craig Dorman.

Courtesy of Friends of Creamer's Field.

7/14/2015 3:12 PM

Come summertime, Alaskans follow the salmon. They gear up and lean into their dip nets, haul out and toss in a line. When not looking to catch fish, they gather to celebrate summer’s nutritional bounty and bountiful light. During the Alaska Salmon Runs and Salmon Jam Music Festival in Cordova July 17 and 18, that means running, racing and kicking up heels, whether in sandals, sneakers, mud boots or bare feSalmonRuns.GroupRacing.jpget.

The Salmon Runs include a king salmon marathon and sockeye half-marathon, along with shorter, faster courses that children can do, like the Humpy 5K and One Mile Smolt Run/Walk.
“What I love about this event is that it is indeed a day when kids and families come out and run together,” said Kristin Carpenter, race coordinator for Alaska Salmon Runs.  “Often one parent will be running the marathon or half-marathon and the other parent will run the 5K with the kids.”SalmonJamChildBubbleDance.jpg
If the crowds come in like previous years, she expects about 40 kids to join the one-mile race this year and another 30 to 60 to run the 5K.  
The races take place Saturday morning, but the festival starts Friday afternoon with a guided wild plant walk at 5 p.m., followed by art activities, music and the Copper River salmon cook-off at 6 p.m.  The featured bands include Aloha Bluegrass, the Railsplitters, the Builders and the Butchers, plus a slew of opening acts.
The weekend is definitely kid friendly, said Cathy Long, the producer of the Salmon Jam and Copper River Wild Salmon Festival.  Kid activities include face painting, fish printing, casting practice and more, plus family dancing, running and playing outside. 
Photo credit: Chelsea Haisman
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-06</hide>June 2015 ‎(3)
6/29/2015 8:28 AM
Your kids come in from playing outside. They’re hot, sweaty and thirsty. What do you give them to quench their thirst? Fruit-flavored drinks? Sport drinks?
How about water?Water vs sports drinks resized.jpg
Water and a healthy snack is all your children need to recover from physical activity. Sports drinks, juice drinks and sweetened flavored water are loaded with sugar that your kids don’t need.
Many parents mistakenly believe that some drinks with high amounts of added sugar — especially fruit drinks, sports drinks and sweetened flavored water — are healthy options for children, according to a recent study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The center’s study is featured in an article by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It’s no surprise some parents are confused by these sugary drinks. This confusion is related to the way these drinks are marketed, using labels that say the drinks are all natural, they contain vitamins, replenish electrolytes, and are necessary for hydration – even when they are high in unhealthy amounts of sugar. Sports drinks, on average, contain about 9 teaspoons of sugar per 20 ounce bottle.
“Although most parents know that soda is not good for children, many still believe that other sugary drinks are healthy options. The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, a study author and the Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center. Harris was quoted in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation article.
The misunderstanding of the large amount of sugar in sports drinks, juice drinks and sweetened flavored water inspired the Play Every Day campaign to create a new TV Public Service Announcement that shows how to find added sugars on the ingredient list. If sugar or another sweetener is listed in the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar. Play Every Day is producing a new PSA and related posters that focus on the high amount of sugar in sports drinks to post in schools. The main message is “Just because kids play sports, doesn’t mean they need sports drinks.” Water is the best option for rehydrating when you get out and play.
The recent Rudd Center survey found that 96 percent of participating parents gave sugary drinks to their child during the previous month. Play Every Day surveyed hundreds of Alaska parents of young children during 2014 and learned that 65 percent of Alaska parents served their child sugary drinks during the past week. In both surveys, fruit drinks and sodas were the sugary drinks most often served. Other common sugary drinks provided by parents included sports drinks, sweetened iced tea and sweetened, flavored water.
For more information on selecting healthy drinks for your children, look at Play Every Day’s FAQ page. Click on this website to learn more about finding added sugar on an ingredient list.
6/19/2015 8:38 AM

When Anchorage residents nominate a park for an upgrade, they point to Campbell Creek and Balto Seppala  as having the kind of playgrounds they want for their children.  Most don’t know these parks as “inclusive” because of features like ramps and soft landing surfaces that make them more accessible toBaltoResized.jpg everyone.

 “They don’t even know it’s an inclusive park,” said Josh Durand, park superintendent for the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. “They just prefer it.”
Inclusive playgrounds include equipment that is accessible to children of all abilities, either because the equipment is at ground level or it can be reached using ramps. Families like the soft landing surfaces that prevent injuries, sometimes feeling like foam and other times synthetic turf that is fire resistant and comfortable. Kids like to walk on the turf with bare feet, Durand said.
The Municipality of Anchorage has always followed the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when building parks and playgrounds. During the past five years, however, the parks department has put more effort into going above and beyond the ADA standards and building inclusive parks that make equipment accessible to all children as well as to parents who have physical disabilities and want to play with their children, said Durand. One father who uses a wheelchair thanked the parks department for building playgrounds in a way that allows him to help his children on the equipment, Durand said.
Inclusive parks often include more seating areas, places for picnics, and transitions to trails, creeks and other places to explore nearby. They offer more than equipment that promotes physical activity; they build in sensory instruments like the drums at Cuddy Family Midtown Park, too.
“People like to make music,” Durand said. “People like interesting textures and things to touch. It just kind of opens it up for everyone.”
Cuddy Family Midtown Park was the first park in Anchorage to be built from scratch as an inclusive playground. The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department and the Anchorage Park Foundation have since remodeled two existing parks in Anchorage to make them inclusive — Campbell Creek and Balto Seppala — and plan to remodel three more playgrounds:  David Green Park on 36th Avenue, Dave Rose Park in the Russian Jack neighborhood, and the Suzan Nightingale McKay Park in the Government Hill area. Once those parks are completed, six of Anchorage’s 85 playgrounds will be inclusive to all children.
The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department began building inclusive parks after families approached them about wanting to be able to use more of Anchorage’s playgrounds. Funding for the parks comes from federal, state and municipal governments; private sources; and nonprofit organizations like the Anchorage Park Foundation, Durand said.
“We are working on a strategic plan to figure out how we can kind of keep this momentum going,” Durand said. 
The photograph of Balto Seppala park was provided by the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department.
6/3/2015 9:17 AM

Summer in Alaska offers a ton of ways to Get Out and Play Every Day with your kids.

Of course, you don’t have to do anything fancy. There are plenty of no-cost activities to do together — go for a walk (or make it a hike), bike, throw a ball or Frisbee, play a little flag football on the lawn…whatever you do, just get your kids out 60 minutes every day.Play Every Day water play.June3.2015.jpg
To supplement your activities or give your family a goal, try some of Alaska’s organized activities as well.
Next week, the Alaska Center for Children and Adults will hold their annual Family Field Day at Denali Elementary in Fairbanks. The good times roll from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10. Events include an obstacle course, tug-of-war, water balloon toss, disability awareness activities and more. Get the details here.
Not in Fairbanks next week? Here are some other kid-friendly events planned around the state:
·        KidzRunning is an 8-week program in Anchorage that starts in June and costs $100. Contact James Dooley at Skinny Raven for more information.
·        Healthy Futures Kid’s Mile on June 18.
·        Mayor’s Youth Cup 2-miler is June 20th.
·        Big Wild Life 2K is Aug 15.
Other locations:
·        There will be a Kids Tri-Athlon as part of the Eagle River Tri on June 7.
·        The Wasilla Midnight Sun Fun Run will feature both a one-miler and 100-yard dash on June 13.
·        The Ward Lake Fun Run will feature a one-miler and a 5K on July 11 in Ketchikan
·        The Houston Kids’ Dash will feature both a half- and one-mile run for kids on Sept. 19
For more race and run information check out the Alaska Running Calendar, the Healthy Futures event calendar, your community’s website, and the activities calendar on our Play Every Day website. Our website also has more great ideas on how you can Get Out and Play Every Day with your kids.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-05</hide>May 2015 ‎(3)
5/27/2015 12:08 PM

Anchorage’s Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon embraces a new event this year -- the Healthy Futures Kid’s Mile.  While grown-ups and teens look on, pick up race bibs and check out the fitness expo, kids from grades K to 6 can run the mile or half mile fun run on Thursday, June 18, at the Alaska Airlines Center. Registration is free and must be completed by 6:30 p.m.  The race starts at 7 p.m.

 Youth Cup Kids Running Pic.jpg
“These multi-day events that extend beyond an adult-centric race are a great model for positively impacting a community,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures, key partner of the Kid’s Mile. “Often times, people don't self-identify as ‘athletic’ enough to run a race or they don't feel the event is fit for the whole family.  The Healthy Futures Kid's Mile and the expo are going to appeal to a larger audience and reinforce the message that being physically active is important to everyone.”
The 42nd annual Mayor’s Marathon event includes full- and half-marathons, relays, a four-miler, and several youth cup races on Saturday, June 20. The marathon course is certified by USA Track and Field and finishers can use their results to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Last year, the event drew nearly 4,200 registrants from all 50 states and 13 countries.
Thursday’s Kid’s Mile coincides with a multi-day fitness expo that includes an outdoor farmer’s market, exhibitors, performances, demonstrations, Mayor’s Marathon participant bib pick up, and more.

The University of Alaska Anchorage athletic department, the organizer of the Mayor’s Marathon event since 2000, approached Healthy Futures about doing a kid-centric event this year. Like all runners at the Mayor’s Marathon event, Kid’s Mile participants will get official race bibs, plus metals and other goodies at the finish line.


Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Anchorage athletic department.


5/19/2015 1:07 PM

Every kid suffers bumps and bruises growing up; it’s just part of being a kid. As parents, we try our best to protect our children from unintentional injuries as they get out and play. Still, hundreds of Alaska children end up hospitalized with injuries every year.

What are the leading causes of injuries that require a visit to the hospital?
No. 1 is falls. Fallbike helmets2 050715.jpging is the main reason children up to age 14 are hospitalized with injuries, according to information gleaned by the Department of Health and Social Services’ Injury Prevention Program from the Alaska Trauma Registry. The registry includes trauma-related information collected when people leave the hospital.
For children ages 5 to 9 years old, another leading cause is an injury from falling on a playground.
“Over the past 10 years, there has been a real push to improve playground safety,” said Dr. Jo Fisher, the injury prevention program manager. “Playground designers are looking at improved construction, safer materials and increased padding,” she said. “But it’s important that parents be there when their children are on the playground — plus, it’s a great opportunity for the parents to be active as well.”
Next on the list for children ages 5 to 9 is injuries from bike riding.
“Most bicycle injury reports include the phrase ‘lost control and fell’,” Dr. Fisher said. She stressed that parents need to be sure that their children are wearing approved bicycle helmets and that they need to be aware that helmet-wearing is required by law for children under age 16 in Anchorage and Kenai, and for children under age 18 in Bethel, Juneau and Sitka. Parents should also make sure that the bike their child rides is the right size and is in good mechanical condition. Check with your local fire department to learn about bike safety classes, bike rodeos and the availability of helmets in your area.
To prevent injuries, pay attention to your feet.
“Play activity should include proper footwear,” Dr. Fisher said. “Flip-flops cause falls and provide very little protection for your feet.”
For older children from 10 to 14, riding All-Terrain-Vehicles is a leading cause of injuries. Three to four children often ride an ATV at the same time, driving it to school in our rural communities, Dr. Fisher said. More children are inclined to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle than when riding an ATV, she said. The faster something goes, the more severe the injuries can be. Helmets are critical when it comes to riding on ATVs, she said.
Don’t forget about life jackets (a.k.a. personal flotation devices or PFDs) when recreating on or near the water. The state’s Kids Don’t Float program provides free loaner life jackets at many locations around the state.
Let’s all do our part to keep our kids safe and healthy while they get out and play, 60 minutes a day.
For more information, see the latest list of the 10 leading causes of non-fatal hospitalized injuries for all Alaskans. 
5/5/2015 11:14 AM

What does it look like in spring when dozens of Alaska kids decide to get out and play?

It looks like biking, hiking and running in the woods. Native dancing and doing the high-kick.

It looks like jumping in puddles during the same week another child sit-skis down the mountain. And it looks like tumbling, sliding at the playground, and kicking around the soccer ball.
Last month we filmed AlPED sit-ski2.jpgaska kids doing all different types of physical activity to show that the possibilities for play are endless. The new 30-second TV public service announcement is packed with a fun and simple message: No matter what you like to do, just get out and play – 60 minutes – every day.
The Play Every Day campaign is run through the Alaska Division of Public Health’s Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotions. This spring, the campaign partnered with the division’s Section of Women's, Children's, and Family Health to film this new public service announcement focused on the importance of daily physical activity for children of all abilities. The TV spot is now posted online on Play Every Day’s YouTube Channel and features children with and without special health care needs.
“All children, regardless of their ability or disability, benefit from physical activity,” said Amanda Cooper, the Health and Disability Program Manager with the Section of Women’s, Children’s and Family Health. “The Play Every Day campaign is the perfect avenue to encourage children of all abilities to get out and play.”
The Alaska days just keep getting longer and longer, making it easier to find a sunny stretch of 60 minutes. So there’s only one question: How will you choose to use that 60 minutes to get out and play?
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-04</hide>April 2015 ‎(4)
4/29/2015 3:50 PM

BikeToSchoolDayGoose Lake Biking 9397 web.jpgBike to School Day melds safety with everything kids love about cycling — the independence, the exhilaration, and the fresh air. This year’s National Bike to School Day on May 6 will involve over 50 Alaska schools and thousands of students.

Last year, Anchorage registered more schools than any other participating community nationwide. Schools can still register now, though it’s not required for participation.
“The event promotes life-long fitness and healthy habits,” noted Kim Resheske, a P.E. teacher at Kincaid Elementary and a Bike to School Coordinator for the Anchorage School District. “It also teaches students that it is important to ride safely.”
Bike to School rules are simple.  Students must wear a helmet and they should wear bright clothing and follow the guidelines of the Safe Routes to School Program:
    • Wear a helmet.
    • Be visible.
    • Ride in the same direction as traffic.
    • Signal intentions.
    • Be alert to changing traffic conditions.
    • Obey all traffic signs and signals.
Ocean View Elementary students will get an extra bonus this year when Olympic cross country skiers and siblings Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen, along with Paralympic athlete Andrew Kurka, join them for the ride.
But whoever you ride with and wherever you live, Bike to School Day champions pedal power as a way to get out and play, every day.
4/21/2015 4:16 PM

HeartRun2015RunningShotFBsize.jpgThe American Heart Association’s Alaska Heart Run will travel along a new course this year, but its mission remains the same: To help prevent heart disease and stroke while encouraging families and friends to stick together. This year’s event on Saturday, April 25, will start and finish at the UAA Alaska Airlines Center parking lot in Anchorage. The timed race starts at 9:30 a.m., and the untimed run and walk gets underway at 10 a.m.

Whether you race, walk, skip or jog, the 5K course provides an opportunity to support health, have some fun and maybe achieve a personal best race time for the 3-plus miles.
Online registration for the timed 5K run ended April 17, but you can still register for the untimed event online through April 23 and at bib pick-up days or the day of the race. Register or pick up bibs at the King Career Center, 2650 E. Northern Lights Blvd., from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, April 22 and 24. Registration fees for the HeartRun2015MedallianFBsize.jpgtimed event (including late fees applied after April 18) are $35 for adults and $20 for children ages 4 to 18. Fees for the untimed event are $30 for adults and $15 for kids. Kids under age 4 run for free. All children ages 6 and under receive a commemorative medal for completing the run.

Money raised at the Heart Run will benefit the American Heart Association and will fund research and community programs that help prevent heart disease and stroke in both adults and children.
To that end, staff from the Alaska Children’s Heart Center will be at the Heart Run again this year teaching CPR. Every spring, the center sponsors and supports the Heart Run, said Dr. Kitty Wellmann, a specialist with the center. They host a booth and teach CPR to anyone who wants to learn, she said.
And kids, remember to log your run on your Healthy Futures Challenge log. The spring challenge ends April 25 at midnight.
(photos copyright 2015 Lisa J. Seifert, used with permission)
4/14/2015 11:13 AM

It’s just after 9 a.m., you’ve missed breakfast, you’re hungry, and lunch is still hours away. What do you do?

If you go to Petersburg High School, you’re in luck. Second Chance Breakfast foods.jpg
It’s called the Second Chance Breakfast, and Petersburg High School offers it between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m. every day of the school year. Ginger Evens from the Petersburg City School District said the breakfast is one way to help students be more alert in the morning and successful in class.
Petersburg High School has about 140 students who start school at 8:30 every day. About 20 students show up at 7:30 for an early-morning band class and some high school students rush to get to school, run late and show up on an empty stomach, Evens said.
“When we serve Second Chance Breakfast at 9:20, then they’re ready to eat something,” she said.
The school does not have pre-school breakfast service but it has offered Second Chance Breakfast since January 2014. Last school year, an average of 28 students and staff ate the extra breakfast every day; this school year, the extra breakfast was moved to an earlier time each morning and about 18 people eat each day. Evens said the district is watching the numbers to see if any changes are needed to improve the program. Second Chance Breakfast Cart.jpg
Petersburg’s extra breakfast is a collaboration between the district’s food service program and several classes at the high school. A student from the metal shop class built the cart that serves the breakfast, and students from special education classes prepare the cart each morning and hand out several options for purchase, including fruit, whole-grain snacks, milk, yogurt and granola — foods that meet the federal nutrition guidelines.
The Second Chance Breakfast costs $2 for students and $3 for staff, but it is free or less expensive for those who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals served at school, Evens said. The students running the breakfast cart collect the money and then put the proceeds back into the school’s food service program, said Evens, the district’s Healthy Living Grant Coordinator.
Petersburg is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve physical activity and nutrition options for students. The grant funding helped the school purchase a refrigerator to store the breakfast food, as well as materials to serve it, Evens said.
Petersburg High School plans to continue offering the Second Chance Breakfast. Evens said the extra morning meal is critical to some students who lack food at home.
“The food that they are getting at school is really the only food that they are getting,” she said. “It’s really important that we provide nutritious foods for them.”
4/7/2015 9:50 AM

​​Tough Slusher photo 040715 edit.jpgDuring the first-ever Tough Slusher race last April, there wasn’t any slush at all. Kids and families completed the short fun run in Anchorage on snow-covered trails, shuffling through some slick patches of ice.

Not this April.
Winter came and went early this year and this year’s Tough Slusher, scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, at 10 a.m., may live up to its name. Participants are encouraged to have their rubber boots ready, said Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director. Healthy Futures, Play Every Day’s partner in physical activity, has organized the 2K and 5K run/walk on the Service High School trails. The race is one of the official events recognizing the Anchorage Centennial. Banners will hang on the race course to celebrate every decade of Anchorage’s recreation history.
The race is not competitive and is open to people of all ages. There is no registration fee, but donations will go to Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has the mission of encouraging Alaska children to build the daily habit of physical activity for good health, and it supports that mission by organizing low-cost family-friendly events and school-based physical activity challenges each year. (Kids, you can count the Tough Slusher as an activity on your Healthy Futures Challenge log for April!)
There is no registration fee, but the event is a fundraiser and donations will go to Healthy HF tshirt and hoodie small.pngFutures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.Tough Slusher participants who contribute a minimum donation of $20 will receive a Healthy Futures T-shirt; those who contribute more than $40 can receive a Healthy Futures hoodie.
You can register online using this form. If you have any questions about the race or the registration process, contact Bib pickup and late registration will take place at the northeast corner of the Service High School parking lot from 9 – 9:45 a.m.
See you at the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher this Saturday.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-03</hide>March 2015 ‎(4)
3/31/2015 10:04 AM

Spring Healthy Futures Challenge 140603 Goose Lake Water 9018 web.jpgThe finish line is approaching, and thousands of Alaska kids are on their way to completing the challenge.

This week starts the last month of the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge. This spring, more than 11,000 students from about 175 elementary schools across Alaska are participating in the free, school-based challenge that helps kids get physically active. Students in schools from Kaktovik to Ketchikan and St. Paul to Eagle are tracking their activity each week, getting closer to the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended for the best health.
Winter seems to be on its way out already in many parts of Alaska, which opens up lots of new ways to get out and play. We know kids are strapping on their helmets and heading out for their first bike rides of the spring. They’re pulling on their rain boots and splashing through the nearest puddle. Families are signing up for the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher – the Anchorage race on April 11 that celebrates having fun during breakup (But more on that next week!)
Alaska children are tracking this activity on their Healthy Futures Challenge logs. To participate in the Challenge, students at elementary schools need to log their activity for the month on a simple form that they get at school. At the end of the month, they turn the log in to a teacher or a school volunteer for a cool prize. Physical activity logs will be due the last week of April. The prize for the April Challenge is a hackey sack. Children who have completed all three months of the Challenge this spring — February, March and April — will be entered in a grand prize drawing for a sports package of their choice.
Not sure if your child’s school is participating? Ask your child’s teacher or visit the Healthy Futures website. Schools will be signing up soon for the Fall 2015 Physical Activity Challenge, so encourage your school’s principals and teachers to participate.
3/25/2015 9:06 AM

kicks4kids.jpgIn Alaska, where the ground is often buried in snow or slick with ice, some kids come to school wearing shoes that are duct-taped together.

Two boys want to play for the school basketball team. The trick is they both can’t play at the same time, because they need to share the same pair of shoes.
A coach knows that if he doesn’t buy shoes for his athletes, he won’t have enough kids to make up a team.
Colleen Franks had heard all these stories from Alaska schools and knew something had to be done to put shoes — shoes that fit right and protect the feet — on all children going to school. That’s how Franks, a business owner in Anchorage, started working with schools districts, businesses and partners throughout Alaska to create the nonprofit shoe recycling program called Kicks for Kids.
“It’s been three years, and we’ve given out close to 3,000 pairs of shoes now from preschool through 12th (grade),” Franks said.
“There are schools where we are trying to get shoes and boots on every kid,” Franks said. “The need is ridiculously high.”
Franks and her family run Aurora Kids Gymnastics for young children in Anchorage. Her goal is to provide opportunities for sports, and overall fitness, to Alaska kids.
“When I started to realize that so many kids were having difficulty participating because they didn’t have the proper shoes, it really bothered me,” she said.
Franks received support from the Anchorage School District. This school year, Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage donated one pair of shoes for each student enrolled at the school, Franks said. Franks also partners with an Alaska nonprofit organization called “The Basics,” which helps raise funds to support Kicks for Kids.
Each Anchorage school and some schools in other Alaska school districts now have buckets to collect shoes that can be shared with children in need. Parents and others can donate shoes, rain boots and winter boots that their children have outgrown. If teachers notice a child in need, they can pull a pair of shoes from their school’s bucket and put them on the child right there. When buckets overflow with shoes, Franks collects them, brings them home, washes them and creates an inventory for other schools that need more shoes than they have in their buckets.
Franks said the Kicks for Kids team of volunteers brought 250 pairs to 18 different schools during a recent week. The program also sent dozens of shoes to Kenai schools. Kicks for Kids is sharing shoes with children in other communities, too, including Eagle River, Dillingham, Fairbanks, even Anaktuvuk Pass.
“The goal is we go statewide,” Franks said.
Kicks for Kids also partners with businesses, like Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage.
“We’re all about trying to promote healthy lifestyles,” said John Clark, who handles the store’s purchasing. Skinny Raven asks Kicks for Kids to stop by frequently to pick up shoes for children in need.
The store donates used shoes from its customers, last year’s models of sneakers, returned shoes, even demo shoes that are often used just a few times and are still in great shape.
Franks said she often hears how grateful the children are for the new shoes.
“These are the best shoes the kids have ever had,” she said.
Kicks for Kids shoes go to kids who need them to participate in school track and sports teams, but they also go to kids who just need something to protect their growing feet. To help Kicks for Kids, parents can add their children’s outgrown shoes to buckets in schools in Anchorage and other communities. Franks said the program takes all shoes and boots, no matter how beaten up they are from use – “Nothing goes to waste.” People also can donate to The Basics to support programs like Kicks for Kids. To learn more, visit Kicks for Kids on Facebook.
* Photo courtesy of the Kicks for Kids program.
3/17/2015 11:51 AM

So, you read our blog about the importance of reading the ingredient lists on the foods and drinks you consume. Now you’ve decided to start keeping track of your sugar intake by keeping an eye on those nutrition labels.Nutrition_label.JPG

But, wait.
That bowl of granola you had for breakfast — the one made with all natural ingredients, the one with nuts and flax seeds—can contain 14 grams of sugar.
That drink you had for lunch — the one loaded with protein and made with all organic ingredients — that protein drink can contain 12 grams of sugar.
A 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 39 grams of sugar.
The problem is “grams” doesn’t really mean that much to us. How much is 12 grams of sugar?
Here’s a simple mathematical formula that can help you manage the amount of “hidden” sugar you consume every day. It converts grams to teaspoons — the unit of measure we’re more familiar with in the kitchen.
By dividing the total grams of sugar by four, you get the number of teaspoons. So, for example, four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar — about the same amount found in most sugar packets. tsp_sugar_small.jpg
Even if you don’t sprinkle any additional sugar on your bowl of granola, it can already contain three and a half teaspoons of sugar (14 grams). You’d never add three and a half teaspoons of sugar to a bowl of cereal, but it’s in there already. Your lunchtime protein drink contains three teaspoons of added sugar (12 grams), and a can of cola contains just almost 10 teaspoons of added sugar (39 grams).
Get your kids involved in doing the math on their foods and drinks. They can learn how to find those hidden sugars and add them up.
3/3/2015 4:21 PM

Buying healthy drinks for your family can be very confusing. That’s because the words you may find on the front of a bottle don’t always tell you what’s in the drink. They don’t tell you about the large amount of sugar that can be hiding inside.

Pick up a bottle of a sugary drink and the front label may use words that make the drink sound healthy: Father Shopping Ad 140605 Sagaya's City Market-0195 web250x.jpg
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“All natural flavors.”
The key is to check the back of the bottle. That’s typically where you’ll find the drink’s nutritional label and ingredient list.
This is the main message in Play Every Day’s new public service announcement running on TV stations in communities across Alaska. The PSA features a dad shopping in a grocery store with his children. When the kids pull a powdered drink and a vitamin-enhanced drink from the store shelf, the dad turns the bottles around and shows them the ingredient list. If sweeteners are listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
When you’re looking for sugar on the ingredient list, watch out for other words. Sweeteners go by many names, including common ones like honey and syrup, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose and fruit nectar.
Next time you shop with your children, look for sodas, powdered drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks on the shelves. Turn the bottles around and show your kids the ingredient lists. Help them find the added sugars and ask them if these sugars are listed among the first three ingredients.
Your kids will become smart shoppers and smart consumers. By choosing to buy and drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, you are teaching your children about the importance of healthy drinks.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-02</hide>February 2015 ‎(2)
2/25/2015 9:57 AM

When you send kids outside to play at recess, they know what to do, right?

They know to be active, have a good time, include everyone else in the game?

Baranof Elementary School, a Sitka school that teaches about 250 preschool through first-grade students, started a structured recess program in the fall of 2013 because staff realized that not all children knew what to do on the playground, or how to start up games with other kids. Ramon Quevedo, student success coordinator with the Sitka School District, said most of the referrals to the principal’s office came from conflicts on the playground. Conflicts that started on the playground would come into the classroom, making it difficult for the children to learn, he said. RecessPhotoPED.jpg

To help children play and reduce behavior problems, Sitka used federal grant funding to hire a nonprofit organization called Playworks to visit the Sitka school and help staff and students start organized play. By the end of the 2013-14 school year, Baranof saw a 50 percent reduction in playground-related behavior referrals, Quevedo said.

Playworks’ mission is that every child can play, every day. “On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs and everyone contributes to the game,” said the Playworks website. Staff from Playworks visit schools like Baranof Elementary to train school staff on how to run an organized recess program and teach safe games that any child is able to play.

Quevedo said the Playworks rules on the playground are simple: “Be respectful. Be safe. Have fun.”

Kids are encouraged to make new friends while they are learning new games, he said. Playworks uses simple tools like rock-paper-scissors to help children settle conflicts. Playworks encourages adults on the playground to get out and play with the kids, not just stand and watch.

When recess is over, a staff member blows a whistle and everyone stands still, Quevedo said.

“It’s just an easy way for them to transition and get ready to come back to the classroom,” he said. At Baranof, they call its “Freeze, Knees” — when all the kids stop moving and grab their knees. Then they high-five the kids who have been playing with them.

“It’s something really simple,” Quevedo said. “It’s really contagious. They just love to give high-fives.”

The Sitka School District is one of eight districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students. Playworks has been so successful at improving physical activity at Baranof Elementary that the Sitka School District completed another Playworks training session for Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, the school that teaches grades 2 through 5 in Sitka, Quevedo said.

2/11/2015 9:11 AM

Looking for fun ways to get your kids active this month? Clear your calendar on Saturday, February 28, because there are two family events in the Anchorage area.

Ski4Kids 2014 045 cropped resized.jpgSign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids event at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Children through age 14 can participate in a 3K timed or untimed ski race, and parents are welcome to ski along, too. Every child finishes with a medal. Children can also try snowshoeing, orienteering, obstacle courses and more. Indoor events at the chalet and outdoor events in the park start at 12:30 p.m. The ski race begins at 1:30 p.m.Ski4Kids 2014 042 resized single skier.jpg

Families can register for Ski 4 Kids online, or register the day of the event. There is no set participant fee, but donations are recommended. Proceeds benefit the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s ski outreach program and a Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth organizations.

Got a costume and no place to wear it? Put it on and join the Frostbite Footrace and Costume Fun Run February 28 in downtown Anchorage. The Fur Rondy event is designed for “hardy” Alaskans prepared for any weather. People of all ages and abilities can sign up for 5K or 2K fun runs that start at 9:30 a.m. The race course begins near the Fifth Avenue Skywalk and ends at Sixth Avenue and H Street. Register for the footrace online before February 25; the registration fee for children is at a lower rate. Participants also can register the morning of the race.

Which event will you choose? The good news is you can do both. With the Frostbite Footrace in the morning and the Ski 4 Kids in the afternoon, you can get out and play all day.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-01</hide>January 2015 ‎(3)
1/27/2015 1:02 PM

Guest blog by Shelley Romer, the elementary school program coordinator for Healthy Futures.

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2014/15 school year for
Healthy Futures.

Our program had a record number of students from 173 Alaska schools participate in the Fall 2014 Healthy Futures Challenge — nearly 18,500 kids, in fact. The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts this Sunday, Feb. 1. We already have 188 schools signed up with an open invitation for more.

As the new ElemShellyRomerJanBlog.jpegentary School Program Coordinator for Healthy Futures, I have been pleased to see how hard-working and enthusiastic everyone has been in raising the bar to develop the habit of daily physical activity. So many people have contributed to getting Alaska children physically active by keeping track of activity logs, entering data into the Healthy Futures database, and distributing prizes. It’s a lot of work, but we have teachers, community members, and parents who go above and beyond what it takes to help get kids excited about being active and healthy.

It helps to have amazing Alaska athletes cheering kids on. We kicked off this school year by supporting the Anchorage School District’s elementary school Jamborees. Our Healthy Heroes — Olympians Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, the APU Nordic Ski Team, the UAA Cross Country Running Team, and many other local athletes — made the events even more special by providing some truly inspiring and motivating energy. It was amazing to stand in front of a group of kids who had just warmed up with our Healthy Heroes and were ready to get the race started. Then… they were off!! 

Determination and gumption flew by as kids ran toward the finish line. Regardless of whether they finished first or last, thousands of kids were giving it everything they had while being cheered on by the crowd and our local athletes. 

Here at Healthy Futures, we definitely practice what we teach. I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, running, skiing of all kinds, playing outside with my nieces and nephews, and just getting outside to walk and clear my head or catch up with friends and family. My coworkers are amazing mountain runners, triathletes, skiers, and people who just like to get out and move. We know the importance of integrating activity into our daily lives, but we also know how fun it is, the benefits of challenging ourselves, how much better we feel when we move, and how great it is to be a part of a community.

We know that research shows a link between the lack of activity and health-related problems like obesity and diabetes. With so many things pointing to more sedentary lifestyles, it can seem a little daunting to address these issues, but kids are meant to move and they love to move. It is up to us to provide and support an environment that promotes what they do naturally.

Please join us and support your children and your students as they participate in the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge and get out and play, every day.

1/20/2015 2:19 PM

More than 300 miles up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, a school district greenhouse promises a bounty of healthy produce for hundreds of Alaska school children.

The Alaska Gateway School District built the 33- by 96-foot greenhouse in Tok to grow and supply produce to all seven schools in the district. The district serves 370 students in Tok, Dot Lake, Eagle, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta Lake and Northway. AK Gateway greenhouse.jpeg

The greenhouse project – funded through several sources, including district funds, a legislative appropriation and a federal U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School grant – reduces the amount of food the schools need to import and transport.

“Having it locally has made a big difference in how fresh the food is,” said Bonnie Emery, Alaska Gateway’s horticulturist.

Emery said the first planting went in the greenhouse in the spring of 2014, the year after its construction. The interior space allows her to grow fruits and vegetables in Interior Alaska almost all year. This year, she grew strawberries, melons, spinach, kale, different types of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans, snap peas and more.

“I still have things growing in the greenhouse,” said Emery in December when she was still growing spinach, tomatoes, turnip greens and celery.

The Biomass Heating Plant in Tok uses trees removed to prevent wildfires to heat and power Tok School, including the greenhouse, which also runs additional heaters and grow lights to continue gardening through the winter.  “At this point, it’s sort of an experiment to see how far we can go,” said Emery.

In January, greenGreenhouse3 resized.jpghouse staff reported that temperatures in Tok dipped to minus 40 degrees, and yet the greens, spinach and celery inside the greenhouse stayed alive.

Needless to say, the Alaska Gateway greenhouse also provides an ongoing learning opportunity. Students at Tok School start seeds in the classroom and transplant them to the greenhouse, and all district students can tour the greenhouse to learn how fruits and vegetables are planted, harvested and then served at schools, said Scott MacManus, assistant superintendent for the district. “All the kids from the whole district will do field trips to the school and go to the greenhouse and see how it works,” he noted.

MacManus said the district would like to work with the state’s university system to start an arctic agriculture program that focuses on what grows best in northern communities like Tok. Alaska Gateway is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students.

For more information about Alaska Gateway’s greenhouse, visit


Photos courtesy of Alaska Gateway School District

1/13/2015 3:04 PM

If it comes from fruit, it must be healthy, right? When eating fresh, raw fruit, then yes, absolutely.

But not when drinking 100 percent fruit juice, which lacks much of the fiber and nutrients that makes fruit healthy for us in the first place: 

Fruit juice “is just aGlassesJuice.jpgs full of calories as the whole food but filters out lots of the fiber and micro-nutrients and delivers all the sugar and calories in liquid form that does not make you feel full,” said Dr. Susan Beesley, a pediatrician with the Anchorage Pediatric Group. “Also, juice is horrible for teeth. Because of its sugar content, it causes lots of cavities, especially if it is used as a drink that is available to children constantly throughout the day or night.”

Too much 100 percent fruit juice, along with other sugary drinks, contributes to obesity and tooth decay in Alaska — where one out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese and cavity rates are high.

People “think that since fruit is healthy, fruit juice must also be healthy,” said Beesley. Plus, “kids tend to like juice (because it is so sugary), so parents think they are giving something healthy to their kids that they also like.”

Some juices contain nearly as much sugar as soda, with as much as 16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce portion, or nearly twice the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult. Plus, Beesley added, kids who get in a routine of consuming sugary juices can carry that habit over their lifetimes by drinking other sugary drinks, like soda, sports drinks or energy drinks.

Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. That’s why pediatricians recommend water as the default drink for kids, with fat-free and low-fat milk as nutritional alternatives. GRC42546-Beesley Susan.jpg

 “I do not think kids should drink any juice,” said Beesley, “but if they must, it should be given in a small volume with a meal.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to ¾ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day for young children. Beesley also discourages serving sugar-free juices or alternatives “because I think they will get kids used to drinking sweet beverages.”

(Photo courtesy Dr. Susan Beesley)

Otherways to limit juice consumption include making it available only on special occasions, like when traveling by plane or when going out to dinner. Diluting juice with water helps reduce sugar intake, but it still means saturating teeth in sugar, said Beesley.

By not buying and serving juice at home and limiting consumption elsewhere, parents help kids establish good habits for drinking water and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy kids should drink two cups of fat-free or low fat milk each day and lots of water, nothing more.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-12</hide>December 2014 ‎(4)
12/30/2014 1:22 PM

Science tells us that too much added sugar can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and other unhealthy outcomes, even in young children. Eating and drinking added sugar contributes to obesity and comes at a significant price: Alaska spends about $459 million a year on obesity-related medical expenses, and the cost to our children’s health impacts their quality of life.

What can we do to help our children build a healthy foundation?

Well, our kids learn their habits from us. They do what we do. The best way to get them to play outside is to go outside with them. The best way to get them to eat right is to eat healthy meals beside them. And since Americans consume nearly half their added sugar from sugary drinks, the easiest and most effective way to cut down on added sugar is to stop drinking them.

“If you or your child drinks just one can of soda a day, you or he will drink more than 3,500 teaspoons of added sugar by the end of the year,” noted Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Obesity Prevention and Control Program in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “That’s more than 30 pounds of sugar.”

In the health department’s new public service announcement called It Starts With Me, a mother reflects on how her habits influence her daughter’s: “At first I didn’t think how my soda habit could affect her health, but when I noticed the extra pounds I put on due to my daily habit, and that I’m putting myself at risk for diabetes and heart disease, I began to wonder… what are sugary drinks doing to her?”

Beverages like soda, sports and energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced drinks, fruit-flavored or powdered drinks, and sweetened teas, coffees and milks add sugars and calories with little or no nutrients. Some of these drinks can contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar in just 20 ounces, twice the maximum amount of added sugar (8 teaspoons) recommended for the average adult by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Want your kids to stay healthy? Start by reducing or eliminating the sugary drinks you buy, serve and consume. After all, good health habits start with you.

12/22/2014 3:01 PM

Holiday potlucks and break room goodies can add to our waistlines, but wrapping ourselves in festive coats and ugly sweaters only skirts the truth – that during the holidays, we often exceed our fuel needs with a heavy dose of added sugar. 

Consider a holiday favorite, the 16-ounce whole-milk eggnog latte, which weighs in at 460 calories, 22 grams of fat and 6 teaspoons of added sugar.

“That is very similar to a milkshake at most fast food restaurants,” said Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “In comparison, a non-ALatte.12.23.14.jpgfat latte only has 130 calories, no fat and no added sugar.” 

Plus, the sugar in liquids hits the blood stream faster and leads to cravings for more, said Rikki Keen, an adjunct professor for the Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I think people don’t realize that you’re not going to feel full when you drink things,” she said. “Liquids just don’t do that. Those drinks have no fiber, so you’re setting yourself up for another sugar fix soon after.”

Keen, who also works as the team dietician for the UAA Seawolves and an exercise physiologist for other organizations, noted a growing body of science surrounding the impact of sugar on the body. “It should be a real turnaround for folks,” Keen explained. “People will begin to realize that sugar’s not good for the heart, that it contributes to low grade inflammation that leads to a laundry list of disease states that we’re just now finding out.”

So how do you keep the balance in a season of sugar plums and hot cocoa? For starters, said Peck, continue to stay active. (Adults should shoot for at least 2.5 hours of physical activity a week and kids should get physically active 60 minutes a day, every day.) Also, keep eating low calorie foods and drinks like water and fruits and vegetables.

Before going to parties or events, said Keen, eat something nutritious to avoid feeling hungry when walking by the sweet tables.

Most important, commit yourself to tracking what you eat. Grab a notebook, create a document, or upload a free app to log what you consume. Apps work well because they break down the nutritional content of everything you eat and tally the totals.

When you really know what you eat and drink, “it becomes the reality the next day and forces you to be much more aware and accountable,” said Keen.

Do athletes, dieticians and nutritionists partake in holiday sweets now and again? Absolutely, but they do so with intention.

“My go-to treat is my own coffee and I add a bit of regular sugar, milk and whey protein,” said Keen. Other options include going with low or no fat milk and asking for just one shot of syrup.

Peck indulges in holiday treats occasionally, too, but she balances it out with lower calorie drinks “like hot spice tea, no sugar, sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or a small ‘skinny tan hot cocoa, no whip.’”

As for the best drink for health and hydration, whatever the season, they agree: Water.

12/8/2014 12:50 PM

Do you feel inspired by people who set a goal and stick with it until they reach it?

If so, let us introduce you to our partner in physical activity — Healthy Futures. This program has gone from a homegrown effort to get families active to a statewide effort that runs a school-based physical activity challenge motivating thousands of elementary children tHealthy_Futures_Logo_Dec.11.2013.jpgo get active every day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day urges schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge and help us reach a significant benchmark:  We have set a goal of getting 200 public elementary schools in Alaska — that’s half — signed up for the spring physical activity challenge in 2015. Schools can sign up for the Challenge now through Dec. 19 at

Reaching this goal will be a remarkable achievement. About 10 years ago, Healthy Futures started with just two Anchorage parents — the late Bonny Sosa Young and Sam Young — who were concerned about the growing obesity problem in Alaska. (One out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or obese.) The couple wanted to improve the health of Alaska children by empowering them to build the habit of daily physical activity. ActiveKidsHealthyFutures10.9.14.jpg

They worked at home and then a small staff joined the program to support low-cost and no-cost physical activity events for families. The program also developed a simple, free physical activity challenge for Alaska elementary schools and students.

Play Every Day got involved three years ago as a partner by supporting the Healthy Futures Challenge with annual funding and promotional resources. The Play Every Day campaign is part of the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

Since this partnership, school and student involvement has grown. In the spring of 2011, 36 Alaska elementary schools and 1,342 children participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge; by fall 2014, over 170 schools and 18,000 kids participated — that’s 1 in 4 public elementary students in Alaska.

Healthy Futures now has other financial supporters, too, like Providence Health & Services Alaska, the United Way of Anchorage, ConocoPhillips, and the Alaska Kidney Foundation.

Schools all over Alaska can sign up now for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge, which will run in February, March and April, 2015. The free, fun challenge rewards students with incentives for being active while giving schools with high student participation small cash grants toward physical activity equipment.

We’re so close to our goal of 200 schools — 173 Alaska schools participated in the Fall 2014 Challenge — and we encourage you to support your kids and schools by asking your schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. Parents can also volunteer to help children fill out their physical activity logs and help the school fill in the participation database and turn it in to Healthy Futures each month. They can help hand out prizes to the students when they’ve met their physical activity goals.

It’s no longer just two parents working to help Alaska children be healthier. It’s all of us.

12/2/2014 1:43 PM

Many drinks contain added sugars, but knowing how much and in what form can prove tricky when looking at labels. Whether organic or pure, syrup or concentrate, solid or raw, sweeteners of all kinds add sugar to our diets and behave the same way in our bodies.

The liquid sweeteners in sugary drinks lack fiber and move into the bloodstream quickly, and this sugar overload can impact the body’s organs and lead to serious diseases overNutrition Word Cloud No Red 250x250.jpg time.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult on a diet of 2,000 calories, but a single 20-ounce bottle of soda contains twice that much. American children and adults consume more than two times the recommended maximum amount of added sugars each day, and nearly half that sugar comes from sodas, sports drink, energy drinks, powdered drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.


How can you avoid these added sugars?


First, read the ingredient list. If a sweetener is listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.


Second, know how to find sugar by any other name, including these:


·        Agave Nectar

·        Barley malt

·        Cane sugar

·        Corn syrup

·        Corn syrup solids

·        Crystalline fructose

·        Dextrose

·        Evaporated cane juice

·        Fructose

·        Fruit juice concentrate

·        Fruit nectar

·        Galactose

·        Glucose

·        High-fructose corn syrup

·        Glucose-fructose syrup

·        Honey

·        Maltose

·        Malt syrup

·        Maple syrup

·        Molasses

·        Brown rice syrup

·        Sucrose


Finally, convert the grams of sugar listed on the nutrition facts label into teaspoons. Simply divide the total number of grams of sugar by four to get the number of teaspoons per serving. If a sugary drink label says it has 64 grams per serving, that’s 16 teaspoons of sugar – twice the recommended daily intake of sugar for the average adult.  


Keep in mind that many store bought drinks contain more than one serving. If the bottle contains two servings, multiply the number of grams of sugar per serving by two and then divide the total by four. A sugary drink with 32 grams of sugar per serving and two servings per container contains 64 grams or 16 teaspoons of sugar in the entire bottle.


Why not choose healthy drinks instead?

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-11</hide>November 2014 ‎(3)
11/25/2014 3:10 PM

Sugary drinks come in bright packages with labels that claim all sorts of things — “loaded with vitamins,” “hydrating,” “all natural flavors.”


What they really contain is added sugar and lots of it —16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce soda or fruit-flavored drink. Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.


“Kids can fill up on these drinks rather than on healthier foods and drinks,” said Karol Fink, manager of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program, the Alaska Division of Public Health. “Those sugars and calories add up.”


A recent survey of Alaska high school students shows that those who report a high consumption of sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers. One out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese – and obese kids tend to grow up to be obese adults.


The health costs add up. Alaska spends about $459 million every year on obesity-related medical expenses, according to a recent analysis, and the impact on work productivity, social and emotional health, and the health habits of future generations only increases the public health toll.


What you drink is as important as what you eat when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and developing healthy habits. Water hydrates our bodies efficiently, contains no calories and no added sugars, and is often more convenient and affordable than other drinks. Milk adds calories, but provides essential vitamins and nutrients.


Next time you sit at the family table this holiday season, talk turkey to your kids about how much sugar is hidden in sugary drinks. For the best health, serve water or milk. Get the facts on sugary drinks at Play Every Day.

11/18/2014 12:13 PM

Looking for fun ways to play and motivation for getting physically active? Check out the 11 entries to the 2014 Play Every Day student video contest. This fall, kids from seven elementary schools in four school districts submitted short videos telling the story of play through images of kids jumping, sledding, climbing, skiing, running, and throwing balls.

 SalchaPSA 2014-11-14 Blizzard250x250.jpg

Salcha Elementary School won first place with a video showing kids sledding, skiing and going down slides while singing, “Twinkle, twinkle play outside, outside in the northern lights.” The short clip includes a comical twist about the weather and supports the message of physical activity. “How do you play?” the children ask. “It doesn’t matter what you do, just get outside and play every day.”


Ronda Schlumbohm, the sponsoring teacher of the winning team, said, “I love to let my students have the opportunity to say what they think and to get out a message. We do believe in getting outside and playing every day, because lots of brain research has been done in this area that proves that getting out is beneficial for children.”


Her 2nd/3rd grade class at Salcha, one of the smallest schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, won by coupling playfulness with zeal.


The creative process began when Mariko Kinikin, a district technology teacher, shared the technical requirements with students and helped them look for and define the elements of a good public service announcement (PSA), explained Schlumbohm. Kinikin talked to the class about the different ways to approach a PSA, such as humor, song and a straightforward message.


“The funny thing is that when we put it together, we did all three,” said Schlumbohm.


Kinikin also helped a 5th and 6th grade class at Salcha research and edit another video that tied for third place. Students started by looking at PSAs and then developed scripts, learned how to shoot film with iPads, and filmed and assessed four pilot PSAs, said Matt Anderson, the sponsoring teacher. After collectively choosing the strongest PSA, they re-shot it with a better camera.


“It was great to watch my students find workable solutions to some of the same problems that I had when I was first starting out,” said Anderson. “This process illustrates what can happen when children are given tools and expectations and then, with proper scaffolding, allowed to solve their own problems. This project was a first step.  I have no doubt that we will be doing more with video as the year progresses and I am really looking forward to it.”


Academy Charter School from the Mat-Su Borough School District won second place and Polaris K-12 from the Anchorage School District tied with Salcha for third place.


All 26 fifth-graders from the Academy class made their own videos from the same raw footage, said Julie Real, one of the sponsoring teachers. In doing so, they touched on technology, writing and public speaking. The class then decided on the four best videos and submitted them.


At Polaris, Corey Aist’s class of 4th and 5th graders practiced how to work together to accomplish a specific task, while he and a volunteer parent assisted. “They were excited,” he said. “They brainstormed, created a plan and story map, and wrote the script. Later, we helped edit it down to the 25 second limit.”


All PSA contest entries were due Oct. 31 and were free to submit. Students were instructed to show how children get out and play or complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, a physical activity program in more than 170 elementary schools across the state.


The contest received videos from Polaris and Lake Otis Elementary from the Anchorage School District, Academy and Trapper Creek from the Mat-Su Borough School District, Salcha and Chinook Charter from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and Fort Yukon from the Yukon Flats School District.


Staff from Play Every Day and Healthy Futures voted on the winning entries by looking at creativity, technical quality, school and community activities represented, following the contest rules, and overall presentation.


Salcha will receive a $500 gift card to purchase physical activity equipment for all students, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who created the video to purchase physical activity equipment. Everyone involved in making the videos will get Play Every Day T-shirts. In addition, Play Every Day plans to share the winning video through social media and TV.


The Play Every Day campaign has posted all of the submitted school videos on its YouTube channel, and will be sharing a number of them through its Facebook page.

11/5/2014 2:45 PM

140605 KTVA Studio-9949 webNoSodaBottle.jpg

Just how much sugar can be hiding in a 20-ounce bottle of soda?
You can show the answer in teaspoons of sugar –16 or more – or by using an easily recognizable food comparison: One 20-ounce bottle of soda could contain as much sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.
With that in mind, Play Every Day launched its new public education campaign on sugary drinks this month with a TV public service announcement, printed posters for schools and health clinics, a new website and a school lesson plan that uses the doughnut and soda comparison to shine a spotlight on the large amount of sugar hidden in many types of sugary drinks.
The point is to bring attention to the amount of added sugar Alaska families drink when they serve soda or fruit-flavored, powdered, sports, energy and even vitamin-enhanced drinks during meals and snacks. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars contribute about 16 percent of the total calories in American diets, and almost half of that comes from sugary drinks.
The campaign goes beyond raising awareness and inspires families to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened beverages served to children. Sugary drinks contribute to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. In Alaska, one out of three children is overweight or obese; and two out of three adults are overweight or obese. 
For the first three years of the Play Every Day campaign, the primary focus has been on the importance of daily physical activity for the best health and maintaining a healthy weight. Campaign messages have promoted at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge – a free school-based physical activity challenge that’s now in about 160 elementary schools across Alaska.
The campaign will continue to focus on the health benefits of physical activity while also working toward reducing the consumption of sugary drinks and promoting water and fat-free or low-fat milk as the healthiest drink options for Alaska children and their families.
Staff from the Play Every Day campaign and state Obesity Prevention and Control Program will visit Spring Hill Elementary in Anchorage on November 6 and Two Rivers Elementary near Fairbanks on November 10 to share the new sugary drinks lesson plan with health and physical education classes.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-10</hide>October 2014 ‎(3)
10/22/2014 9:25 AM

If you’re a third grader at Seward Elementary, you will have physical education class on Monday.
You’ll have it on Tuesday, too. And again Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
In fact, by the enMark Fraad Seward250x250.jpgd of the week, all students in grades 3 to 5 at Seward’s only elementary school will have 30 minutes of PE, five days a week, meeting the recommended 150 weekly minutes of PE for elementary-age children. When you add in the morning and lunch recess time, Seward’s children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for good health – all before they leave school at the end of the day.
That makes Seward a standout school for the amount of PE and activity children get every day. Seward Elementary has only one PE teacher for the whole school – Mark Fraad. So how does one teacher provide PE instruction to hundreds of kids every day of the week? Fraad explained how the whole school worked together during the 2005-06 school year to make PE a priority.
Back then, Seward Elementary offered only two or three PE classes a week, each 30 minutes long, for students in all grades. That is still the case for grades K-2, but the staff wanted to offer daily PE to grades 3-5.
Fraad said the teachers and Principal David Kingsland – who remains the principal today –looked at research showing that children do better academically when they are active in structured (PE classes) and unstructured (recess) ways and that their behavior improves, too.
The school’s staff knew they wanted to give the older children more PE time each week, so they asked themselves what they could change to make that happen.
Fraad said they agreed to compromises. School staff moved lunch into the classrooms to free up the gym for one or two more PE periods each day. Fraad took on more PE classes daily, too, and now teaches 10 to 11 thirty-minute PE periods a day.
“Our gym is always full,” he said. “We always have kids moving.”
Other teachers got involved, too, taking kids out for extra recess when possible. When Fraad has funds to buy additional physical activity equipment, he looks for what he calls “Take 10” equipment – anything you can use when you have just 10 minutes to be active in class. Every bit of activity counts. Fraad and other Seward Elementary teachers also offer five after-school intramural activities each year – cross country running, soccer, basketball, volleyball and cross country skiing. When classrooms achieve a goal, they ask for an extra PE class instead of treats.
“We’re offering a healthy alternative to the pizza party,” Fraad said.
Fraad said school staff noticed improved student performance immediately after adding more PE time.
During the school year following the addition of PE classes, the percent of students proficient in math skills increased in grades 3-6 (Seward Elementary taught preschool through sixth grade until last year, when sixth grade moved to the middle school). The percent of students proficient in reading skills also increased in grades 3 and 5.
“We believe incorporating PE every day was a contributing factor in bringing our school’s percent proficient up and keeping it at that high level in the subsequent years,” said David Kingsland, who has been principal at Seward Elementary for the past 15 years.
Fraad said not all schools will be able to make the same changes Seward Elementary did to add more PE and activity to their students’ days. Every school has challenges to overcome to add physical activity, but he said there may be compromises that would add more recess or PE time. It’s paid off for Seward’s kids, Fraad said, helping them stay in shape physically and scholastically.
“Physical activity improves academics,” he said. “It improves kids’ behavior.”

Photo features PE teacher Mark Fraad of Seward Elementary juggling with work and play.
10/13/2014 9:57 AM

15-OPCP-0907-School PSA Poster-250x.jpgAlaska kids, you still have time to create and film a short video about how you get out and play.
The Play Every Day campaign’s video PSA contest ends Friday, October 31. The contest is challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a 25-second video about how they get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both. The Healthy Futures Challenge continues in 190 Alaska schools this month. So far, more than 12,000 children across the state have completed Challenge logs showing they’ve been physically active each week this fall.
Film that fun activity and show off how you play.
Here’s how the contest works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and following the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
10/7/2014 11:24 AM

Stormy weather can make walking to work or school a challenge, but with the right gear and knowledge, kids can turn the trip to school into a lifetime habit of good health. International Walk to School Day serves as a reminder that daily life offers plenty of opportunity for physical activity. FiveKidsWalkingSchool250x250.jpg
All three schools in Petersburg registered for the event this year. “It’s important for people to see they can walk and make it part of what they do every day,” said Ginger Evens, the Healthy Living Grant Coordinator for the Petersburg City School District, one of eight districts receiving state grants to help reduce childhood obesity by improving school nutrition and physical activity at school. “If you have to get a ride to school because you live 10 miles out, then leave the car at the boat harbor and walk the last half mile. We want to encourage that walking is okay. We want the high school kids to know that walking downtown at lunch is a good thing.”
This year, Walk to School Day takes place on Wednesday, October 8. What began as a one-day event in 1997 grew into an international walking day in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The goal centers on creating safe routes and walkable communities, and encouraging people to explore their routes by foot.
Evens would love to see high participation at Stedman Elementary, Mitkof Middle School, and Petersburg High School, but she knows the younger kids will hit the pavement in higher numbers. “I’d be happy if a few kids in high school say they walked,” she said.
All three schools have put notices out in school bulletins and informed students about the event. Primary teachers have talked to their students about the importance of using crosswalks and sidewalks, walking the right direction and making sure they can be seen. The day of the event, Evens will conduct a survey to figure out how Petersburg kids do get to school so she can look at ways to make walking appealing.
In the end, walking to school or work means choosing self-locomotion as transportation and getting healthier because of it.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-09</hide>September 2014 ‎(4)
9/30/2014 4:13 PM

KidsFunRunningHFShot 9.30.14.jpg
Fun runs and daily play change in beautiful ways come fall and winter. The leaves turn color and coat the ground. The air crisps up and ignites the last smells of summer. The sound of footsteps begins to soften.

Welcome to some of the best running of the year. The Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series continues in Anchorage through October, along with an array of walking and running events that keep the chilling, darkening season warmed up throughout Alaska.
Get the skinny on fall and winter events through Play Every Day, Healthy Futures, and the Municipality of Anchorage Runners Calendar.
Here’s a quick rundown of a few family-friendly events throughout Alaska this October:
Oct. 4
  • Hit the Trails: 5k and 2k options, 10 a.m. at Trailside Elementary in Anchorage
  • The Home Run: 5k and 10k loop courses, 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., 3190 Alumni Drive in Anchorage,
  • It Ain’t Easy Hill Run: 5 miles flat, 11.3 miles hilly, 10 a.m. at Dog Mushers Hall, Farmers Loop in Fairbanks,
Oct. 5
  • Readers on the Run: 5k walk/run, 11 a.m. John Trigg Ester Library Gazebo in Fairbanks
Oct 11
  • Run the Rock: 10k at 10 a.m., 13.1 mile at 10 a.m., 5k at 12:30 p.m., starting at the Bear Valley Golf Course in Kodiak,
Oct. 18
Oct. 25
  • Skinny Raven Frightening 4k: 11 a.m. at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage,
  • 33rd Halloween Family Run: 2 and 10 miles, 10 a.m. at the UAF Patty Center in Fairbanks,
  • 2nd Annual Costume Run 5k: meet at 11 a.m. at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center,
9/22/2014 4:33 PM


Nearly 1,000 people will jog, run, walk and sprint over and through leaves, mud and puddles in each of eight races in the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series this fall. The event run by Anchorage Parks and Recreation has engaged people of all ages in fun runs on city trails for decades.
The rainier and windier the night, the fewer the participants, but not by a lot — 854 people joined the first race this year compared to 1,100 who ran the second “less rainy and windy night,” said Margaret Timmerman of Parks and Recreation.
Needless to say, rain, wind and other dynamics like hilly courses and competitors in costume make for fun and unpredictable workouts. The race lengths vary for age, interest and skill, with courses ranging from a few kilometers for kids and kids at heart, 3 to 10 for recreational runners, and 4 to 12 for competitive racers. 
Timmerman reiterated the core principle of the program when giving tips for kids of all ages: “Stay on course, watch for trail markers and enjoy yourself,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you place, just that you get out and run.”
The race series represents just one of the many ways Anchorage supports getting out and playing. Remember to check out the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Activity Guide for activities like swimming, basketball, dance, skiing and yoga. Many are free or low-cost and open to all skill levels and ages.
As for the Tuesday Races, well they continue through the costume run on Oct. 28 and the awards banquet on Nov. 4. Online registration closes at 6 p.m. on the day of the event, with race time at 6:30 p.m. On-site registration is available at some races, but check online to confirm.
Here’s the remaining 2014 race schedule:   
·        September 23 - Tozier Track
·        September 30 - East High
·        October 7 - Russian Jack Springs Park (Cartee Fields)
·        October 14 - Service High
·        October 21 - Service High
·        October 28 - Kincaid Park Costume Run
·        November 4 - Kincaid Outdoor Center

Photo courtesy Anchorage Parks and Recreation
9/9/2014 11:52 AM

Hey Alaska kids:

Do you have a fun way you like to play?
We challenge you to show us what that looks like. The Play Every Day campaign is holding a video PSA contest challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a short video about how you get out and play. The deadline for entries is Friday, October 31. 15-OPCP-0907-School PSA Poster-3C-SJ[1].jpg
Last year, Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage created a fun video about how students there get physically active and do the Healthy Futures Challenge, which kicks off again in 186 Alaska schools this week. We thought the idea was so creative we decided to start a statewide video contest.
Use your video to show how you get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both.
Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
Now grab your friends and make a movie – kids, cameras, ACTION!

9/3/2014 11:15 AM

Jamboree.healthy futures 224.jpg

Give a kid a race bib, and she’ll run. Give him a finish line, and he’ll lunge over it. Rain or shine, breezy or chilly, the Anchorage School District’s Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees give kids a chance to dash and run away with a sense of accomplishment.

“Much like the Tuesday Night Race series organized by the Muni, these Jamborees offer our children's families low-stakes and high-energy opportunities for healthy exercise and play,” said Ben Elbow, a co-organizer of the North Anchorage Jamboree and a physical education teacher at Rogers Park Elementary. “As a parent and teacher in Anchorage, I'm thankful for our city's tremendous trail system and appreciate all the dedicated volunteers who help organize these events.”
The annual citywide event began in 1987 when Baxter Elementary teacher Mike Allan threw the first Jamboree with help from Baxter Community Schools. He ran the Jamborees until 2003, when the elementary school physical education staff decided to split the race into three regional events in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. By then, many schools had formed after-school running groups to help kids build endurance and confidence while playing games and running.
Now thousands of kids join the Jamborees across the city, and all receive ribbons after their photo finish.
"The Anchorage Elementary School Jamborees are one of the truly great Alaskan family traditions and they embody everything Healthy Futures stands for," said Harlow Robinson, the executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and the Healthy Futures program. "We are proud to be a partner and to support the event any way we can."
Students can get a head start on the Jamborees by doing the Coyote Classic at Kincaid Elementary on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. Get a rundown of events and fun runs for kids here and on the Healthy Futures calendar. Here are the dates and times of the upcoming Jamborees:
·        Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
·        North Anchorage Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m.
·        South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 27, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Healthy Futures. 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-08</hide>August 2014 ‎(3)
8/27/2014 4:05 PM

BlueberryJamGirlinPinkSkikuShot2014.jpgThe first Blueberry Jam Fun Run in Kotzebue last year drew 65 people to the rolling, scenic course. Skiku coaches expected a few more this year and ended up picking barely enough berries for the 265 people who walked, jogged and ran across the finish line.

With ripe fruit and beautiful terrain as ingredients, the Blueberry Jam represents one of the many activities orchestrated by Skiku – sometimes known as NANANordic – to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Alaska kids. What began as a Nordic ski program now integrates running, biking, and duathlon training with skate skiis and laser rifles.
“Being active all year is what we’re promoting,” said Robin Kornfield, the program manager for Skiku and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development. “Hunting, fishing and gathering are part of the lifestyle, and this fits into what people already do.”
Skiku runs a Nordic ski program in March and a running program in August. Competitive skiers come from throughout the country coach school kids in communities like Selawik, Kotzebue, Noatak and Shungnak. These volunteers teach physical fitness, Nordic skiing, the winter duathlon and all manner of play and, in turn, get to experience Alaska in a one-of-a-kind way.
The program also provides equipment to kids and schools to help sustain enthusiasm throughout the seasons. This year, Anchorage bicycle shops donated bikes so that kids can ride all year.
Through camps, gear and a good dose of play, the program helps “even people who aren’t into skiing or running stay active and involved,” said Kornfield.


Photo by Zach Hall, courtesy of Skiku.


8/14/2014 10:41 AM

blueberries.jpgThey abound in yards, along trails, in the alpine tundra. They appear bold and plump, bright and dense, firm and tender. They taste impeccable by the handful, on oatmeal, in smoothies.

Yep, its berry picking time in Alaska and this year’s pickings look plentiful and ripe. Gathering berries gets us outside and moving, while also yielding a cache of goodies to eat, freeze, can and dry for months to come.  
“All of Alaska’s berries, like blueberries, cranberries, and currents, provide vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
“Cup for cup, cloudberries, or low-bush salmonberries, provide three times the amount of vitamin C in orange juice.”
Leslie Shallcross, an associate professor in the Anchorage office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, agreed. “Alaska wild berries are true nutrition power houses with even higher levels of antioxidants than their Lower 48 counterparts and the most abundant fruit type growing in Alaska,” she added. “Regular consumption of berries has been linked to many health benefits such as improved memory, lower blood sugar levels and decreased pain.”
All of which is to say, there are many good reasons to fill a pail with berries. Many Alaskans hold dear the secret to their favorite berry patch, of course, but it only takes a bit of looking to find one.
“Some of the parks in Anchorage will have blueberries, lingonberries, watermelon berries, currants, rose hips, high bush cranberry,” said Shallcross. “For family outings, Girdwood, Arctic Valley, Hatcher's Pass, Hope are favorites in South Central. …Some only grown in the damper, milder temperatures of Southeast Alaska.”
Berries don’t grow abundantly in the same places every year, so it pays to go on hikes ahead of time to look for flowers and immature berries. The exact ripening period varies in different regions and years, but most berries are ready to pick in mid to late July through August, with some ripening as late as September.
Some popular types of berries ripen in this order, from early to late summer -- wild strawberry, currants, wild raspberry, cloudberry, nagoonberry, salmonberry, blueberry, highbush cranberry, rosehip, crowberry, service berry.
“Altogether, there are around 40 different edible berries, although not all of these are tasty,” said Shallcross.
A few are poisonous or unpalatable, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Baneberry is particularly poisonous and just a few berries can lead to death. Adults should make sure children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant live (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.
Parents should make sure their children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant life (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.  As always when headed outdoors, take water and prepare for the weather.
There are numerous online sources to help, like Berry picking 101, as well as books like Verna Pratt's Alaska's Wild Berries and Berry-like Fruit and from Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska. Other sources can give tips on how to store and prepare wild berries.
Armed with some knowledge and an appetite, everyone can fill up on one of the healthiest food on the planet by plucking them from the berry playground within your reach. 
8/5/2014 1:06 PM

Maybe you rent an apartment and don’t have a yard. Perhaps you have a yard, but it’s not big enough for a garden that feeds your family. Or, maybe you just like to plant vegetables among family, friends and neighbors.

All of these are great reasons to check out a local community garden program in your city. A number of Alaska communities have low-cost garden plots that you can rent to supply your family with lettuce, carrots and other vegetables throughout the summer. Here are links to some of them, but call your city to ask about gardens in your area:
These websites will help you find out when to register for a plot, what supplies are available and the rules for renting garden space. Fair warning: Community garden programs can be very popular and there may be waiting lists due to a limited number of plots.
There are lots of benefits to renting garden plots. You know what goes into your greens, and you can’t get much more local than your own garden plot. You have a place to be physically active — preparing the land, planting and harvesting — and reap the healthy rewards at your dinner table. You can get your kids involved, showing them how to grow their own food.
What can you grow? On its website, Juneau’s garden association calls potatoes “practically foolproof” and rhubarb “almost effortless.” The association recommends planting a short row of lettuce every couple of weeks, and to consider kale, a leafy green that “loves our weather.”
You can also save money by renting a garden plot. The cost for one plot in Anchorage is $35. In Juneau, plots also cost $35. The plot cost in Fairbanks is $40. Some gardens come with extras, including water for irrigation, picnic tables for family gatherings, portable toilets and a nearby area for kids to get out and play. Families can use their plots to grow their own vegetables without having to spend money purchasing produce that often has to be shipped here from outside states and countries.
Each garden has its rules. You must get your plot ready and planted by a certain time each year, and you need to tend your garden a certain numbers of hours each week. You need to be a good neighbor and keep your produce inside your plot boundaries. And you need to clean up after yourself at the end of the harvest.
Community gardens are in full swing this summer, but be sure to check out your community’s website to learn more about how you can grow your family’s food on a rented garden plot.
(Photo copyright 2013 Nathaniel Wilder. Used with permission from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.) 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-07</hide>July 2014 ‎(3)
7/30/2014 11:04 AM

A person at play needs the right fuel to do it. For that, nothing beats Alaska farmers markets, where you can find fresh, flavorful and nutritious vegetables, meat, seafood and bread.
FM-Quest 5.jpg
Through the collaborative effort of state agencies, the United States Department of Agriculture and local farmers markets, Alaskans with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as the Food Stamp Program) benefits can purchase foods from 11 farmers markets throughout the state.
Using Alaska Quest cards – the means for accessing SNAP benefits— eligible Alaskans can also take advantage of a matching program supported by the state that allows them to purchase up to $40 worth of eligible market foods for $20.
“My goal is to increase access to and the availability of healthy foods,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Local food, especially produce, is very healthy, fresh, and it supports local farmers and businesses, supports our economy, and all of that helps public health.”
The Alaska Farmers Markets – Quest Card Program began promoting and supporting the implementation of electronic banking at two pilot markets in 2011 using funds provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Electronic card readers allow markets to accept Quest cards. The pilot markets yielded $13,000 the first year. The program expanded from there, earning markets revenue of $50,000 in 2012 and $114,000 in 2013 when the matching program began.
This year, 11 markets accept Quest cards in Anchorage, Bethel, Homer, Fairbanks, Petersburg, Sitka and Willow, and all provide access to the matching program.
Access to fresh local foods makes a difference in health and the local community, said Peck. A survey of Quest card users showed their enthusiasm for supporting local farmers and having access to an array of organic foods, she said, and that means growing the customer base for local farmers.
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