Penn State Hershey is getting almost $2 million from the state to operate programs focused on healthy eating and exercise in several school districts.
The university said Tuesday it will use the money to deliver grants and offer personalized technical assistance to 15 school districts with more than 80 schools that will be part of the program.
“Obesity affects 1 in 3 children in Pennsylvania, and in an effort to reverse this trend, we can encourage and promote lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits by implementing school health initiatives,” said Donna Kephart, executive director of the Penn State Hershey PRO Wellness Center, which is working with the state Department of Health on the project.
“We are happy to partner with the Department of Health and look forward to seeing the funded programs and policies put into place so they can begin to make a real difference,” Kephart said in a statement.
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The money is part of a federal grant initiative that seeks to address risk factors for chronic disease and ultimately reduce obesity, diabetes and heart disease, Penn State said in the statement.
The program tries to reach large parts of the population through its work with school districts and early-care and education centers.
Penn State said the funding the Prevention, Research and Outreach Wellness Center receives will be used over a five-year period and will help in the development, coordination and administration of the grant program in schools.
It will help the districts develop and implement a supportive nutrition environment and physical activity programs.
Districts will be picked based on a number of criteria, including state-mandated body mass index information and academic performance and whether they offer free or reduced lunches.
Penn State said the wellness center will help the districts “make data-driven decisions that will address nonacademic barriers in an effort to improve health and academic achievement and growth of students.”