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Let’s Move! Moves to Schools

 Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick and Michelle Obama dance with school children at a Chicago fitness event on Feb. 28, 2013. Schools nationwide can apply for more than $70 million in private grant money and another $80 million in federal money for physical fitness classes under a new Lets Move! Active Schools program, according to First Lady Michelle Obama who announced the effort in late February in Chicago.

Let’s Move! Active Schools, which will build on the earlier Let’s Move! fitness campaign aimed at parents and communities, will try to engage 50,000 K12 schools with low academic achievement in the next five years. The grants will fund physical activity programs before, during, and after school for faculty, staff, families, and their communities. Most deadlines to apply for the funds are in April.

Nike Inc. President and CEO Mark Parker pledged $50 million to the effort. Other private organizations including Child-Obesity 180, the GENYOUth Foundation and the General Mills Foundation, have pledged another $22 million. In addition to the grant money, participating schools will receive resources to help spread the word about their new programming (from Nike) and professional development to give school leaders the skills to integrate physical activity into the school day (from the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance).

The goal is to get children to physically move for at least one hour per day, which is needed to stay healthy, according to the U.S. government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools offer daily physical education, says the 2006 CDC School Health Policies and Programs Study.

At the February event, Obama acknowledged the difficulty to keep physical activity in the school day. “We all need to dig a little deeper and get even more creative,” she said to a crowd of 6,500 at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. “Quality physical education comes in all forms, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But it does take leadership. … If you’re an educator, especially a physical education teacher, we need you to be a champion.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was at the kickoff along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and athletes including retired two-sport baseball-football star Bo Jackson, football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, and tennis star Serena Williams.

“We need to make these opportunities the norm, not the exception,” he said. “The children who need these opportunities the most have been denied them.”

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