Fire Up Your Feet!

This post was also featured on Together Count’s blog.

Fire-Up-FBObesity prevention has been identified by PTA members as a top priority for health and safety.  School nutrition has long been a key component to PTA’s history, yet PTAs are relied on to raise much needed funds for schools often through food-based methods. As a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and a Together Counts™ Ambassador, we promote energy balance and encourage schools to make healthy changes having to do with more activity to balance calories consumed. This year schools began implementing “Smart Snacks” that ensure all food sold to kids during the school day is healthy.  PTAs and families play a critical role in supporting the new nutrition guidelines as any fundraisers, school stores or vending machines running during the school day must meet these new standards.  PTAs and school groups therefore needed a healthy, easy choice for school fundraisers.

Fire Up Your Feet, a program launched in partnership between National PTA, Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Kaiser Permanente as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools program, gives families, students and schools tools to create fun, active lifestyles that inspire our children and their families and schools to be healthy and physically active by walking before, during and after school.  The program, available to any elementary and middle school (grades k-8) nationally, offers an online activity tracker and school fundraising component that supports annual PTA annual fun runs or walkathons, with 75 percent of the money raised going back to the PTA or school, which is more than the typical amount of 60percent.  The Fire Up Your Feet Activity Challenge award program, which has awarded more than $115,000 and more than 1,100 K-8 schools, is also available in sponsored regions.

For many years now, Jenkins Middle School PTA has supported students, families, and staff by raising funds.  They decided that Fire Up Your Feet was a wonderful way to engage students, staff, families, and the community in increasing health and wellness. They kicked off their Fire Up Your Feet Activity Challenge with a before school walk around their track, with 100 parents, staff, and students energetically completing laps while logging their hours for the challenge. As a result, they received a $200 award.  Bathgate Elementary PTA proudly walked to school on October 8 (Walk to School Day) with almost 85 percent of the students participating.  They used their activity challenge award to purchase additional PE equipment and provide CPR and First Aid training.  Rainbow Elementary PTA used Fire Up Your Feet to support their “Walk Around the World Challenge, where families logged in almost 2,300 miles and over 79,000 minutes of exercise.

Parents are a key part to the coordinated approach to child health.  Through Fire Up Your Feet National PTA is giving families the tools they need to model positive health behaviors, meet their required amount of daily physically active and burn energy together.  And, it helps PTAs fully supporting the positive changes happening at school while still meeting the obligations of bringing much needed funding into the school.

In addition to this program, we’re proud to announce year three of our partnership with Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and their Together Counts program to bring schools an incentive toward healthy lifestyles through the Healthy Lifestyles: Energy Balance 101 grant.  The application is open now, with a deadline of June 19, 2015.  Go to to find out how your PTA can get involved.

Heather Parker, MS, CHES is the Senior Manager for Health and Safety at National PTA, where she serves as in-house expert on child health and safety and develops new programs, materials and resources to support PTA’s health and safety efforts.

Kids Act Fast. So Does the Poison Help Line.

PoisonHelp2All parents want to keep their children safe. But the fact of the matter is kids are fast, curious, and impulsive. It only takes a few seconds for your child to find common household dangers, ranging from medicines to cleaning supplies. Situations like these are part of the reason that about half of all poison exposures reported to America’s poison centers involve children younger than six.*

National PTA wants to share a resource that can help you keep up when your kids act fast: the Poison Help line.

The Poison Help line, 1-800-222-1222, is a toll-free number that quickly connects you to the medical professionals at your poison center. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists answer calls 24/7 and can provide parents like you with lifesaving information. In fact, the Poison Help line receives about 500,000 calls from parents and caregivers ever year. That’s one call every minute of every day.** Health care providers call the Poison Help line too.

Calls to poison centers not only save lives, but also time and money. Seventy percent of poison exposures can be managed over the phone,*** which helps avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room and saves money on health care costs.

We know that you may not be able to slow your children down, but there’s a way to stay a step ahead. Program the Poison Help line into your phone and post it near your home phone so it’s there when you need it most. For more information, watch this video or visit

* Bronstein AC, Spyker DA Cantilena LR, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2011 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 29th Annual Report. 2012. Clinical Toxicology (2012) 47, 91–1164.

** Safe Kids Worldwide, An In-Depth Look at Keeping Young Children Safe Around Medicine

*** Bronstein AC, Spyker DA Cantilena LR, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2011 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 29th Annual Report. 2012. Clinical Toxicology (2012) 47, 911–1164.

Don’t Let the Holidays Derail Your Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy_LifestylesNovember is a great time of the year, with the leaves changing and our attention turning to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  This month is also National PTAs Healthy Lifestyles Month – a time when PTAs are encouraged to celebrate health and wellness in their schools and communities.

Many PTAs may think: “How can I possibly think about promoting healthy eating and physical activity during a time of year that brings families together to eat lots of delicious food, watch football, and stay warm and cozy inside?”  Families may think: “It’s simply not possible to eat healthy or have time to exercise until after the New Year.”  And, everyone may think: “Healthy food tastes bad and exercising is too hard.”

Being committed to health and wellness doesn’t mean being the food or exercise police, serving tasteless meals, or depriving your family of the treats that make the holidays so special and fun.  It means creating an environment both at home and at school, every day, that makes the healthy choice the easy choice for our kids.  It’s about balancing our calories and moving our bodies.

PTAs across the county are showing their commitment to health and wellness by participating in Fire Up Your Feet, organizing community turkey trots, and hosting healthy cooking classes for families, to name a few.  How can this commitment be continued on Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to overeating and napping on the couch in a turkey slumber? The answers may be easier and more enjoyable than you think, and can be applied to everyday, not just the holidays.

  1. Before you head to the grocery store, plan your Thanksgiving meal together as a family.  Try to follow the My Plate  guidelines, where half of your plate is fruits and vegetables and the rest will be divided between protein and whole grains.  Here’s a great side dish recipe.
  2. Once dinner is ready to be served, set up all of the food in the kitchen versus having all of it on the table. This helps prevent people from “grazing” or getting another plate full of food when they’re already full.
  3. Before you watch football on TV, play a game of touch football outside as a family.  If it’s snowing, build a snowman.  If you’re stuck indoors, have a dance competition.

For more ideas for how to celebrate Healthy Lifestyles month, visit

I am so thankful for all that you do to keep our kids healthy and safe, and I wish you a very happy holiday season.

Heather Parker is the Senior Manager of Health & Safety for National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Heather at

What We’re Reading: Nutrition


Tonight’s Biggest Loser episode features PTA parents

Biggest_Loser_PTA2Between 8-10 p.m. Monday night, parents and educators at Bay High School near Cleveland, Ohio will tune into NBC’s famed weight loss show, The Biggest Loser, with the hope that they will see their school featured. The Sun News reports that the show filmed PTA parents learning how to prepare healthy meals from Biggest Loser chef Devin Alexander. This season the show focuses on preventing childhood obesity and even features young contestants. The recipe will remain a secret until the show airs so leave your own healthy recommendation in the comments section or take a guess at what dishes they learned to cook.

A ten-year-old pleads for healthier school lunches

Andrew Misura, 10, of Maryland has some advice for President Barack Obama as he enters his second term: provide healthier school lunches and longer periods of physical activity for students nationwide. “I eat three times a day and I don’t look forward to lunch, so I bring lunch,” he wrote. “We should at least get real food! They should be healthier and something more than a microwaved box with food. You should also make longer school recesses so there is less childhood obesity.” Recently, the Washington Post published his full plea in a compilation of other student letters sent to the President in advance of the inauguration.  Read how child health and nutrition will continue to be a staple of the National PTA Federal Policy Agenda in 2013.

 New video on nutrition standards features National PTA President Betsy Landers

Earlier this year, we collaborated with the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project and the USDA to help promote the new national nutrition standards. National PTA President Betsy Landers helps to explain the changes and their importance in a short video that also features White House chef Sam Kass and includes student reactions to the improvements. Help us spread the word about these changes using the new photo gallery of healthy foods and a list of five facts you should know about school meals.

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Heather Parker is the Manager of Health & Safety for National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Heather at