Insight Grants

Spotlight on Head Start Body Start

The American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), two associations of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD), were awarded $12 Million grant in late 2008 from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The grant applied to was the 2008 Head Start Innovations and Improvement Projects program, and AAPAR/NASPE applied under Priority Area 1: National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play for the Head Start Body Start project ( NASPE and AAPAR won the only award made in the nation for this priority area, which I am extremely pleased about since the Insight Team and I generated this grant application. 😉

This four-year grant award will allow Head Start Body Start to accomplish its three main objectives (as stated on the program website):
Administer and support sub-grants for construction or improvement of playgrounds and outdoor play spaces at Head Start Centers
Provide resources, training, and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees
Inform and assist the Office of Head Start in setting national priorities and developing policies
Each year, approximately 380 mini-grants of up to $5,000 each will be awarded to Head Start/Early Head Start Centers for the improvement or creation of playgrounds or outdoor play spaces. This amounts to about $2,000,000 per year and is a tremendous opportunity for these centers. In addition to grants, Head Start Body Start will offer a wide range of training and technical assistance services (including but not limited to self-assessments, professional site assessments and recommendations, online resources, web-based trainings, trainings at conferences, and regional trainings) aimed directly at increasing physical activity and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start Children. Secondarily, the project will also result in data collection on a number of issues for which no data currently exists, such as how physically active Head Start children are typically and what percentage are overweight or obese.

As of 2007, there were 18,875 Head Start Centers and 50,030 Head Start classrooms. 909,201 children were enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start. Together Head Start and Early Head Start serve children ages 0-5 from households with income levels at or below the federal poverty level. Over 60% of Head Start children are from racial or ethnic minority groups, and over 12% have disabilities. While the debate as to why continues, it is well known that children living in poverty tend to have a higher incidence of childhood obesity. NASPE and AAPAR’s project is much needed, and—due to a high-quality, well-thought-out design, very likely to be successful.

The project has three full-time, permanent staff members in addition to support from NASPE’s Executive Director, Charlene Burgeson; AAPAR’s Excutive Director, Mariah Burton Nelson; and NASPE’s Director of Communications, Paula Kun. The Head Start Body Start permanent staff members are Karin Spencer, Center Director; Katina Kearney, Training Director; and Kellie May, Program Assistant. The project team also includes five Master Trainers (, a significant Advisory Board, outside evaluation consultant Dr. Paul Wright, and hundreds of professional consultants. AAPAR and NASPE designed the project to leverage existing strengths, resources, and experiences, but did not fail to acknowledge where more help or resources would be necessary or best for the project in order to ensure the greatest possible chance of wide-ranging success. The participating staff, consultants, and board members reflect this as AAPAR and NASPE reached out (DURING the application period, which is ideal) to individuals that were not just field professionals, but recognized field EXPERTS and brought them on board. This is a great strategy that will enhance any application because it enables the writer to be more specific about what will happen and who will do it, and demonstrates the organization has already done considerable legwork and will be able to mobilize quickly if funding is awarded.

So what’s going on now with Head Start Body Start? Well, the first RFP for grants for playgrounds and outdoor play spaces for Head Start and Early Head Start Centers has been released!! Applications are due by July 1, 2009 and awards are anticipated in September. All documents and information needed to submit an application can be found on the main program page ( in the red box in the center of the page. If you’re thinking, “$5,000 would be nice, but play areas are expensive. Can we really accomplish anything with $5,000?” worry no further! NASPE and AAPAR have proactively responded to this issue. Earlier this year, a vendor request for proposals was issued to generate a range of value-added packages of $5,000 or less that would empower Head Start Body Start grantees to effectively put grant funds to use in a way that is supported by the original Department of Health and Human Services grant. You can find information on selected packages and vendors in the grant applications materials posted on the site.

While you can’t apply for a grant if you are NOT a Head Start or Early Head Start Center, you CAN access some of the great technical assistance resources through the online HSBS Toolbox ( and monthly newsletters ( The Toolbox resources are easy-to-implement ideas for increasing physical activity in early childhood. They can be used in the classroom, in a community-based project setting, or at home! (Parents, check out the activity calendars!) The Head Start Body Start project plan also includes two important literature reviews and the preparation of a policy guide, as well, which might also be posted online or made available for purchase in the future.

I think this is an outstanding project that is off to a great start! It will be exciting to watch it progress this year and over the next three years. I’ll try to keep you posted on its progress, but visit the project site for more details and background information. :o)

Local Health Foundations as Organizers in the Battle Against Childhood Obesity: Part 1–The Greater Rochester Health Foundation

Last week was an exciting week for The Greater Rochester Health Foundation ( located here in Rochester, NY. Wednesday they held their annual Grantee Showcase, and Friday was the deadline for the 2009 Community Mini-Grants. (Watch for these in 2010!) As Insight was a 2008 Round 1 Community Mini-Grant awardee, I read the current Request for Proposals (RFP—the grant application guidance) and noted the key changes prior to heading over to participate in the Showcase. I was really impressed with what I found at the event and really disappointed to see there wasn’t a higher turn out by community members. I was pleasantly surprised to learn what a great opportunity the Showcase is for networking, learning about the wide range of currently active health initiatives in our community, further connecting with Foundation staff, and increasing my understanding of how this Foundation operates and what it views as important. I realize I have a hometown bias here, but I truly believe GRHF is a national model for health foundations as community leaders—particularly regarding childhood obesity reduction and prevention.

The goal of GRHF’s Community Mini-Grant Program is “To increase physical activity and improve nutrition for Monroe County children and youth from age 2 years through high school.” In 2009, Mini-Grants of $500-$7,500 (depending on the number of children to be served) were open to nonprofit organizations serving Monroe County children ages 2-18. Grassroots nonprofits who do not yet have 501(c)(3) status were even eligible provided an established bank account in the organization’s name existed. This is a prime example of one of my favorite things about this Foundation: accessibility. GRHF makes sincere and ongoing efforts to ensure that any organization with good ideas and commitment to increasing activity and/or improving nutrition can access Mini-Grant funds—even if the organization doesn’t have any grants experience and isn’t large. This is further reflected in the RFP layout. Every RFP this program has released to date has been easy to understand, but what amazes me is that they continue to get clearer. (Anyone who’s spent any amount of time applying for grants knows RFP clarity is a rare and wonderful thing.) Deb Tschappat is the manager for this program. An experienced grant writer herself, Deb does a terrific job of listing succinct, direct questions that keep the focus of the grant proposal scoring on the content and not necessarily the writing. As a proponent of physical activity programs—and particularly those that are locally-based—and a writer who has seen a lot of vague RFPs, I really appreciate this approach. I’m certain it was helpful to me when Insight applied to GRHF last year, and I have a very significant amount of experience with grant funding on this topic.

So… What did we do with our money? Insight created the Maplewood Kids Get Moving project. Maplewood Kids Get Moving is simply aimed: offer more opportunities for Maplewood Neighborhood children to be physically active. We did this by offering two different activity programs: MKGM Summer Program and Healthy Activity Preschool PlaY Times (HAPPY Times). Both programs have been entirely free to participants. The Summer Program ran three mornings a week for three weeks last summer in a local park and was open to children ages 2-10. HAPPY Times is meeting every Tuesday morning (October to June) at our neighborhood library and is open to children ages 2-6 and their parents or caretakers. For both programs, we utilized the research-based, proven-effective Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH; Physical Education (PE) program to give us a wide range of fun activities we knew would work. We also offer healthy snacks at every session. Most of the staffing is volunteer. Our grant from GRHF paid for liability insurance, CATCH training (which we opened to many other organizations in the neighborhood), a CATCH PE equipment set, Polar E40 heart rate monitors (, pedometers, obstacle course materials, jogging trampolines, etc.

At the Showcase I learned the many ways other grantees have used Mini-Grant funds. Here are just a few examples:
· Creating new opportunities for physical activity through afterschool fitness programs for adolescents and teens
· Parent and child cooking classes focused on healthy eating
· Expanded dance programs
· School-based skating programs operated by outside organizations
· Improved indoor and outdoor play spaces and playgrounds at child care centers and schools
· More physical activity equipment for afterschool programs, churches, and PE classes

You may be thinking, “This is all great, but does it really constitute a national model?” On its own, it’s just a great grant program, but combined with GRHF’s comprehensive approach, it does. The Mini-Grants are one piece of a larger effort that includes:
· a full strategic plan complete with measurable goals
· local research on trends, parent views, activity levels, and BMIs
· larger physical activity and healthy eating grants for area schools
· educating physicians and other primary care providers in obesity prevention and reduction practices
· Healthy Hero awards that honor individuals in the community that are working to reduce childhood obesity
· a 5-2-1-0 ad campaign that leverages stickers, magnets, flyers, mailings, billboards, TV and radio commercials, and parent education events (5-2-1-0 is a nationally-recognized model program. It reminds students and their caretakers that students should strive for: five fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of computer and TV time, one hour of active play, and zero sugary drinks.)
· partnering with other organizations and initiatives to go after major national funding streams in order to make policy and environmental changes
· support for other health projects (childhood obesity is a major initiative of the Foundation but not the only initiative) including neighborhood health improvement projects that include policy and environmental assessment and changes aimed at increasing physical activity and healthy eating.

GRHF is outstanding because it has recognized that the issue of childhood obesity is not one that is solved quickly or by one or two types of action. It takes efforts at all levels of the community and the engagement of many people and organizations to turn the tide. GRHF has adopted and invested in a wide range of efforts that will decrease childhood obesity in the Rochester Region by empowering each child to be active and make healthy eating choices every day!

Do you know a funder we should feature? If so, email us at I’d definitely like to talk about the Highmark Foundation, including but not limited to the Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge grants, so anyone who is willing to share their experience with that funder, please email!

Insight Grants