Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

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Open community use of school recreational areas

2014-Policy--Legislative-Update-Manual-coverby Amy Splittgerber, M.Ed.
Executive Director, SC Alliance of YMCAs

It is no secret that SC consistently ranks as one of the most obese states in the nation, with rates higher for minorities and those living in rural communities. Best practice for obesity prevention is to increase opportunities for safe places to be physically active through policy, systems and environmental change strategies. For people to be physically active, they must have access to safe, affordable and convenient places to do so. Many low income/underserved communities in South Carolina do not have adequate recreational facilities, parks, playgrounds, courts, fields and trails. Thus, schools and the recreation facilities on school property can provide much needed opportunities for play, sport and recreation.

That is why partners in SC have come together to work with the SC School Boards Association to create a recommended policy for Open Community Use of School Recreational Areas. Just published in their 2014 Policy and Legislative Update, this policy establishes the basic structure for local school boards to open school recreational areas up for community use during daylight hours when the school or school related organizations are not using such areas.

A number of school districts in South Carolina have some sort of policy concerning community use of school property, mostly noting indoor use by non-profit organizations such as scouts, after school enrichment programs or community service organizations. School districts are also genuinely concerned about the high rates of obesity among their student populations and want to take positive steps to assure the best environment for their kids. With this model policy, schools can become a focal point for physical activity, recreation, sport and play for the citizens of the community. It is a win-win partnership!

We need your help! Please educate your local school board about this model policy and advocate for its adoption. Once districts adopt the policy, Eat Smart, Move More SC plans to add on to their existing Let’s Go database and begin to add the schools and their recreational options to the Let’s Go map so that individuals and families can know what school based recreation options are available in their community.

Let’s work together to make the healthy choice the easy choice in South Carolina!