The Learning Connection Summit has come and gone, but our journey towards connecting learning to nutrition and activity has just begun. As I expected, this event was truly amazing. The Summit kicked off in the early evening of September 18 at the Renaissance Hotel in Arlington, VA where over 350 adults and children warmed up with Nike’s Master Trainer, Holly Rilinger. Even NFL greats like Kurt Warner, Darrell Green and Ray Rice were challenged by her warm up. I know my legs were sore the next day by the doing numerous squats, jumps and jumping jacks. It was such a joy seeing the kids and “kids at heart” enjoying the variety of activities that first evening. Many tried their best to beat the top score in the high knees challenge or catch passes from Kurt Warner in the mock columbine drill. The evening rounded out with lucky winners walking away with some top-notch raffle prizes, such as autographed jerseys and helmets along with four XBOX Kinect systems. In addition, Nike and Dole surprised the kids with new backpacks and garden starter kits.
Day two did not disappoint either. Dr. David Satcher, the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, jump started the day and laid down the foundation, the key reason for this Summit— “We are here because we have one thing in common. We are here because we care about children. We care about their health. And we care about their learning.” Wow! Those few opening words, just sum up the whole purpose of making the initial idea of this event a reality.
To continue building the foundation, Charles Hillman, PhD, University of Illinois, Joseph Donnelly, EdD, University of Kansas and Ronald Kleinman, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children presented key science supporting the concept that good nutrition and adequate physical activity has a strong impact on kids’ learning. These leaders in research presented data, graphs and even brain scans to show this connection. Yes, science in this area is still emerging, but these initial results have helped to raise awareness and the need for continued research.
Howie Long along with National Dairy Council’s President, Jean Ragalie, led a success story panel session where we heard how two Fuel Up To Play 60 (FUTP60) student ambassadors transformed their schools to healthier and more active environments. These young adults have taken the mission of FUTP60 to heart. I anticipate that these kids will take their knowledge and experience and continue to inspire others to get active and eat well.
To switch gears a bit and tie in some fun and entertainment, TV Chef Carla Hall from “The Chew,” along with School Nutrition Association’s President, Sandra Ford and eight FUTP60 student ambassadors shared their thoughts and insights about the importance of breakfast and what each liked to eat for breakfast. Some favorites included French toast sticks and/or pancakes dipped in or topped with apple sauce, cereal and milk, breakfast pizzas with veggies and cheese, breakfast biscuit sandwiches, breakfast burritos and yogurt parfaits. To round out the segment, the students each made their own yogurt parfait that met the school nutrition standards for a breakfast. This quick and easy breakfast option included three separate components-lowfat yogurt, a serving of fruit topped with whole grain cereal. All components were measured out in ½ cup portions. Needless to say, there were not any empty containers!
Sam Kass, Assistant Chef, Senior Policy Advisor of the Healthy Foods Initiatives at the White House also captured the audience’s attention and again justified the need for the Summit “In the end, if you think about it, the American Dream is at stake, but I have never been more optimistic because of meetings like this.”
The whole purpose of the Summit was to inspire people to take action and make changes. To assist in making this a reality, the final session of the day involved attendees making a commitment to change. Each person was charged with developing a 30/90 day action plan. Why 30/90? Well, it is easier and more realistic for most people to wrap their brains around what they can easily accomplish is short bouts of time versus long term. I felt the energy in the room as attendees eagerly voiced how they plan to take action with their organization or with themselves personally to spread the word about the learning connection. How inspiring!
This blog only skims the surface of what occurred at the Learning Connection Summit. To learn more about the research and other happenings from the Summit visit the GEN Youth Foundation. You can even hear the inspiring words of Dr. Satcher (whose voice and overall demeanor reminds me of James Earl Jones).
This Summit was just the start of the journey to making the learning connection. It is now up to us to continue the conversation and take action—to continue to ignite change for the sake of our kids—our nation’s future.
Christine M. Cliff, MPH, RD, LDN