HealthMPowers Case for Support
One out of four Georgia children lives in food insecure homes, meaning they don’t have consistent access to affordable, nutritious food.1 And three out of four children don’t get enough physical activity.2 These numbers increase for children who are members of Black, Hispanic and Indigenous families.3
No child should go without food. No child should face a day without an opportunity to move and be active. And no child should ever have to face the realization that the color of their skin may act as a barrier to good health.
Imagine a world where all children have access to plenty of nutritious foods and spaces for physical activity. Allowing time for at least 30 minutes of physical activity in a child’s school day decreases the number of discipline referrals they receive in school, and having access to regular healthy meals increases concentration during class. In this world, children are armed with the education and resources they need to make healthy and sustainable choices for a lifetime of good health.
At HealthMPowers, we work every day to reduce the barriers to good health that children and families face by providing nutrition and physical activity resources and trainings that level the playing field for everyone, in all communities.
And it’s working. Our program participants in 2020:
- 90% of early-care aged children met national guidelines for physical activity, and 82% met national recommendations for fruit consumption
- 49% of elementary school children participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, and 53% consumed 2+ fruits per day, compared with 40% of students nationally
- 68% of secondary students had classroom physical activity at least five days per week, and 59% participated in after-school physical activity
- 40% of out of school time participants increased fresh vegetable consumption to more than once per day, and 14% increased fruit consumption more than one time a day
- 98% of community participants indicated their plan to purchase fruits and vegetables used in our store taste testing’s, and 99% of participants expressed their intent to eat the fruit or vegetable again
Mission, Vision & History
At HealthMPowers, we exist to empower healthy habits and transform environments where children live, learn and play in service of achieving a bold vision where all children are nourished and active.
Founded 20 years ago by two community leaders, along with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, HealthMPowers started in a basement conference room with one mobile health unit. Today, HealthMPowers implements programming in 137 communities across Georgia.
HealthMPowers reaches over 300,000 children annually through a staff of 50 and 40 national, regional, state, local and university partners. The organization stewards a $7 million annual operating budget governed by a 21-member Board of Directors.
Equity is the lens through which we approach our work. We partner with families, schools and communities that have been historically under-resourced, and many times ignored. We don’t enter into a site or community space and dictate what they need, they are already doing the work! We listen, help create action plans, introduce partnerships and provide resources that contribute to holistic and culturally relevant solutions.
Our work is also grounded in a theory of change: We believe the more touchpoints a child receives to reinforce healthy habits, the higher the likelihood they will develop and sustain healthy habits through childhood and beyond. Our programs are designed to help across various touchpoints, whether they are at home, in the community, in an early care setting, K-12 school or out of school time.
We accomplish this in four ways:
HealthMPowers at work
Creating sustainable change requires education and persistence. It requires modeling the behavior you want to see and encouraging the larger community to get involved.
Raiko Jones, Executive Director of the Paulding County Boys & Girls Club, understands the key to reversing unhealthy behaviors and supporting healthy ones: creating sustainable change using an all-hands-on-deck holistic approach.
Ms. Jones and club staff are trailblazers, creating an environment focused on educating and empowering youth to lead the charge of creating healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families. Priorities include ensuring members follow recommendations for fruit, vegetable and water consumption. Staff also use creative means to get youth moving daily. Ms. Jones partnered with a number of organizations, including HealthMPowers, to accomplish these goals.
Using creative ways to engage club members to incorporate more physical activity during the day. More than 30 members of the club volunteer with the East Paulding High School Step Team to teach youth step routines. Performances in the common areas have become a popular activity, showing that stepping is fun and gets your heart rate up.
Making water, fruit and vegetable consumption a priority. Paulding improved club staff access to water with HealthMPowers water dispensers at club entrances and created a club garden with the help of HealthMPowers Health Educators to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
Environmental changes outside of the club. With volunteers’ help, staff created an outdoor space near the club garden to serve as a friendly space where youth can gather. Volunteers added benches and ornamental landscape plants for youth to find comfort while learning in the garden. Staff also partnered with Compost Now to enhance composting knowledge. A Community Growth Leader at Compost Now visited the club to demonstrate to youth how composting works. Members even created an outdoor compost pile using banana peels collected from club members during snack time.
In their fifth year of partnership with HealthMPowers, Paulding has excelled at empowering students to Eat, Drink, Move! and even garden each day! The staff is fully committed to changing lifestyles and being healthy role models for youth.
This is how HealthMPowers works: strong partnerships along with nutrition and physical activity education designed to empower children to chart their own paths to achieve their dreams.
Our Programs & Work
HealthMPowers implements sustainable programming focused on increasing access to and promoting nutrition and physical activity education. We partner with educators in and outside of the classroom, families and community leaders at all levels to deliver resources that educate and ignite a passion for health in children.
Our program model spans a multi-year partner relationship that’s built on the CDC’s evidence-based guidelines for assessing and expanding health and wellness. Over the past 20 years, it’s proven highly effective in helping create a future where all children are nourished and active.
We’re highly engaged in the communities we serve, working alongside educators, school nutrition staff and community partners to provide holistic and culturally relevant programs that include:
Empowering Healthy Choices in Schools, Homes and Communities
We administer one of the most comprehensive SNAP-Ed programs in the state of Georgia. The initiative touches over 200 early care centers, K-12 schools, after-school programs and even retail outlets and food pantries across the state, with a focus on hands-on nutrition education through gardening, cooking classes, experiments and more. In addition, the program has a complementary focus on physical activity and water consumption. Food access support, family engagement, standards-based lessons and resources for schools, children and families are all hallmarks of this multi-year, successful initiative that benefits 1 in 7 (15%) Georgia residents.4
Girls Empowering Movement (GEM) Initiative
Only 51% of girls have healthy aerobic capacity in 5th grade and by 12th grade, the number
drops to 31%.
Girls are at the center of this one-of-kind effort to increase physical activity and fitness levels of Georgia’s middle school girls. The program, designed by girls for girls, debuted in summer 2021 with a goal to motivate 200,000 girls to get moving and engage their communities by acting to implement physical activity programs. Right now, hundreds of girls across Georgia have access to programming, resources and a peer network to get active, build leadership skills and form connections to develop the social and emotional tools middle school girls need to be happy, healthy and confident. That number will grow during the 2021-2022 school year when over 2,000 girls will be recruited.
Over 1.3 million Georgians are struggling with hunger, and of them, over 400,000 are children.5
Eat.Move.Talk! is a statewide training for early care providers that aims to improve the health outcomes of children during their most critical stage of development in which 90 percent of brain development occurs: birth to five years old. This stage of development is fostered through the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity strategies in combination with Language Nutrition.
Georgia Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment
The Georgia Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment is an interactive online assessment tool designed to support early care providers with environmental policy and practice improvements in healthy eating and physical activity among children, staff, and families. This tool offers wellness resources specifically aligned with each assessment indicator to ensure providers make effective, sustainable changes within their early care settings. Currently, HealthMPowers is piloting the assessment with over 150 providers statewide, including 20 through our partnership with Georgia Organics.
Reach for the Stars Learning Collaborative
Aligned with the Georgia Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment, the Reach for the Stars Learning Collaborative is a statewide training series designed to transform wellness policies and practices within early care settings to create healthy environments for children, staff, and families. Participants receive up to 30 Bright from the Start training hours, nutrition and physical activity resources and materials, technical assistance and mentoring, and provider-specific nutrition and physical activity assessment reporting.
Power Up for 30
A statewide initiative to encourage kids to get 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day. We work with educators, counselors and district officials to provide training and co-design action plans and strategies to achieve this goal. In 2020, these trainings impacted 3,681 students and 288 staff from 15 K-12 schools across 5 school districts, including the Department of Juvenile Justice, which includes 9 counties.
All Georgia schools are required to measure the fitness of students in grades 1-12 on an annual basis, using the Cooper Institute’s FitnessGram assessment. HealthMPowers offers annual training and technical assistance for health and physical education teachers on how to conduct the assessment and use the results to inform strategies and programming to increase the heart health of students. In 2020, 171 teachers received training, impacting more than 130,000 students.
Elevation of Youth Voice
Youth are highly motivated by their peers. Investing in young people increases their knowledge and practical skills and strengthens social-emotional health. Our Student Health Advocates lead the charge, hosting events, directing social messaging and challenging their peers to lead healthier lifestyles. Last year, 1,080 Student Health Advocates were trained to promote improvements in healthy eating and physical activities in their schools and communities.
Dynamic Professional Development & Dedicated Support
Our Health Educators work with School Health Teams to determine nutrition and physical activity goals unique to each school or site’s needs. They are on hand to provide nutrition and physical activity resources and ongoing technical support, including information on grant opportunities.
Success & Impact
Our programs are creating powerful results for children in the classroom and beyond.
Physical activity improves classroom behavior and promotes an optimal classroom environment. Positive associations exist between recess and indicators of student cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior, including attention, concentration and on-task classroom behavior.
- As an alternative to long-term suspension/expulsion for students, one Georgia middle school used tactics informed by Power Up for 30. They recorded significant behavior changes that included a decline in suspension/expulsion rates as high as 79 percent from year to year.
- Just one session of moderate physical activity instantly boosts a child’s brain function, cognition and academic performance. Studies show that a half-hour of jogging can help students solve problems up to 10 percent more efficiently.6
- The CDC states that physical activity can impact cognitive skills, attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are essential components of improved academic performance.7 These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.
Research by the Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition found that children and families that participate in programs like ours are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.8
As a valued partner to the Georgia Departments of Public Health and Education as well as the statewide trainer for Georgia Shape’s Power Up for 30, our programs have demonstrated improvements in heart health for more than 10 years.
Highlights & Awards
We’ve been able to accomplish great things working alongside Georgia’s educators, children and families.
- HealthMPowers is a recipient of both the Georgia All-Star and Legacy Healthy Georgia Awards. Awarded to HealthMPowers by Lt. Governor Cagle’s Healthy Kids Georgia, Georgia Shape and the Georgia Department of Public Health, these are the highest honors given to nonprofits committed to youth health.
- HealthMPowers has been recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives through a resolution recognizing the impact of our programs.
- HealthMPowers has presented at more than 100 local, state, regional, national and international conferences.
- Through a partnership with Share Our Strength in 2019-2020, HealthMPowers was able to partner with schools across the state to implement alternative school breakfast programs which provided access to a nutritious breakfast for 2,000 students who previously were not accessing school breakfast.
- HealthMPowers has trained all physical education teachers in the state to implement FitnessGram, in partnership with the Georgia Departments of Public Health and Education.
- HealthMPowers received the largest seed grant ever awarded by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation to implement the Girls Empowering Movement (GEM), alongside the Boys and Girls Clubs of Georgia, Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta and Wolf Wellness Lab.
- HealthMPowers has served as a statewide SNAP-Ed implementation agency for the last 14 years, reaching hundreds of thousands of children and families with nutrition and physical activity.
- HealthMPowers has trained over 310 early care centers statewide to create wellness policies and improve practices to ensued children in their care are well-nourished and active.
- Commendation from Governor Nathan Deal
HealthMPowers fulfills a unique niche in Georgia by offering expertise, technical assistance, community-informed and evidence-based programming and advocacy to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. Ultimately, HealthMPowers seeks to ensure that the root causes of many preventative chronic diseases – poor nutrition and lack of physical activity – are tackled head-on.
In Georgia, one out of every four children live in food insecure homes without consistent access to affordable, nutritious food. Three out of four children don’t get enough physical activity. These numbers increase substantially for Black, Hispanic and Indigenous children.
- 65% of the children we serve are members of the Black community.
- 15% of the children we serve are members of the Latinx community.
- The overwhelming majority of the children we serve qualify for free and reduced lunch rates.
No child should go without food. No child should face a day without an opportunity to move and be active. And no child should ever have to face the realization that the color of their skin may act as a barrier to food access or physical activity.
An investment in HealthMPowers will contribute to changing the trajectory of the increasing number of Georgia children who suffer from or are at risk of becoming obese. In the US, 13.7 million children have obesity. There are more children impacted by obesity than ADHD, asthma and allergies combined.
A generation of Georgia children that can achieve their full potential without health being a barrier
Invest in Georgia's Children
With adequate investment, HealthMPowers can ensure all children have access to nutritious foods and regular opportunities for physical activity by:
Creating the systems and environmental changes needed so that all children can participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day (60 minutes is the national guideline), decreasing the number of discipline referrals received in school;
Supporting access to regular healthy meals that increase concentration during school;
Scaling an innovative program to increase physical activity among middle school-aged girls while developing leadership skills and addressing their unique social-emotional learning needs;
And starting in the earliest educational settings to empower all children with the education and resources needed to make healthy and sustainable choices to set them on a path toward a lifetime of good health.
1 Feeding America, “The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020” (https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/Brief_Local%20Impact_10.2020_0.pdf)
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Physical Activity Facts (https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm)
3 Northwestern Institute for Policy Research, “Racial Disparities in Food Insecurity Persist” (https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/georgia)
4 Atlanta Community Food Bank, Facts and Stats (https://www.acfb.org/facts-and-stats/)
5 Feeding America, “2020 Map the Meal Gap” (https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/georgia)
6 Pediatric Therapies, “Exercise and the Brain: How Exercise Can Improve Academic Performance for Your Child” (http://pediatrictherapies.com/exercise-brain-exercise-can-improve-academic-performance-child/)
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance” (https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf)
8 Public Health Institute, “SNAP-Ed is Helping U.S. Families Make Healthier Choices, Study Shows (https://www.phi.org/press/snap-ed-is-helping-u-s-families-make-healthier-choices-study-shows/)