A partnership of USD #345 Seaman and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka have received a major grant award to benefit the health and wellness of Seaman students. The three-year grant through the federal Carol M. Williams Physical Education Program (PEP) is for $448,801.00.
The grant, titled ‘Healthy Futures’ will benefit students at all Seaman schools, and participants in Boys and Girls Clubs programming. Grant initiatives will address gaps in physical education programs as well as healthy eating and nutrition using evidence-based, age-appropriate initiatives. The federal PEP program is focused on helping students develop an appreciation for lifelong, healthy nutrition and physical education habits, and make progress toward meeting standards for physical education.
“We’ve been working very hard for years to improve health and wellness in North Topeka, and this grant will let us continue and improve those efforts,” said Seaman Director of Communications and Grants Jeff Zehnder.
The largest portion of the grant will be for athletic and exercise equipment, with additional funding for professional development, curriculum material, and personnel to oversee grant implementation. The grant will also fund the installation of fruit and vegetable gardens at the district’s elementary schools, with the eventual goal of incorporating harvested food into school lunches.
“We started a vegetable garden at West Indianola Elementary School this year, and while it is only in its infancy, the kids are all very excited,” said Zehnder. “Nutritious food sometimes gets a bad reputation from kids, but when they see and are involved in growing something from a tiny seed into produce, it’s a completely different experience.”
The PEP grant award comes as national childhood obesity numbers have grown in recent years. In 2012, Topeka was named the eighth fattest city in America in a Gallup Poll.