play Finalist / 2019
Fit Kids LA
The Fit Kids Program is an innovative, structured physical activity curriculum designed for underserved children aged 4 to 13. Fit Kids increases activity levels and builds fitness, motor and social-emotional skills. We want to expand programming in LA by partnering with more afterschool sites serving at-risk kids.
Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.
Ashley Hunter founded The Fit Kids Foundation in 2011 to address disparities in access to healthy physical activity among underserved children. The initial goal was to bring sports programs to low-income communities. We quickly found that the young people with whom we were working lacked the coordination, speed, strength and agility that are essential for playing sports. Unlike their peers in neighboring higher-income communities, these children did not have safe parks to play in, meaningful physical education programs in school or organized after-school sports to help them develop fundamental movement skills.
To address this alarming opportunity gap and empower children to adopt a physically active lifestyle, Fit Kids began offering free after-school fitness programs in underserved communities. Over the last seven years, we have continuously improved upon a year-long physical activity program that we make available, at no cost, to schools and community organizations serving low-income households.
Our Director of Programs, Navita Wilson, vividly describes the stresses felt by families caught between steadily rising housing costs and low-wage jobs: “Students are having to move in with cousins or other families. They’re being doubled and tripled and maybe even quadrupled up in a home, sometimes with people they don’t even know. Although they’re not the ones trying to find the higher-paying job or secure the housing, it affects them because they’re trying to figure out, ‘Where am I going to sleep? What am I going to eat?’ They bring all these stresses to school, and Fit Kids supports them through their struggles and challenges just by taking them out of that world and allowing them to be kids, have fun and learn healthier ways of living.”
Which of the play metrics will your submission impact?
- Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
How will your project make LA the best place to play?
The best place to play means that EVERYONE gets to play. Fit Kids will help make LA the best place to play by bringing an innovative, structured physical activity curriculum to afterschool programs serving disadvantaged Angelenos aged 5 to 13. Fit Kids was born in the Bay Area and expanded to Los Angeles in 2017. We now have 15 LA programs serving 3800 kids and a growing wait list. An investment by My LA 2050 would more than triple the number of programs, to 47, in 2019-2020 and set the stage for continued growth.
Physical activity is essential to every child’s healthy development but, for lack of access and opportunity, children in lower-income communities are more likely to be physically inactive, overweight or obese, which can lead to a lifetime of health problems. For these children, we must provide equitable access to structured programs that motivate them to stay active by making fitness fun. More fun—and more resources—will drive higher participation in afterschool services. The earlier and more consistently we can offer them these opportunities, the better.
Fit Kids provides everything that under-resourced schools and nonprofit organizations need to implement a professionally-designed fitness program with their existing staff. This includes all required equipment, the latest curriculum in digital and hard copy, in-person training, as well as support from Fit Kids’ Director of Programs. The curriculum includes a total of fifty classes, broken into five units: Team Building, Communication, Locomotor Skills, Chasing/Fleeing and Hand/Eye Coordination. Over the course of the year, there are five fitness areas that are repeated and get progressively more difficult: Push/Pull Muscles, Core, Agility, Balance and Power. All activities build fitness and motor skills and encourage communication, teamwork and other social-emotional skill building.
Schools and afterschool programs qualify to receive Fit Kids based on the percentage of their students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. The minimum is 50% eligible but the average Fit Kids Partner Site is closer to 90%. This school year, more than 10,000 children are thriving in Fit Kids classes every week, in the Bay Area, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The annual program timeline begins over the summer, when site lists and curriculum updates are finalized and equipment is ordered. Site coordinators are trained in August and classes begin with the school year in August/September. The Director of Programs conducts in-person site visits in November and February. Partner Sites report on participation and progress every month and Fit Kids supports them as needed throughout the year.
Fit Kids is gaining momentum because it works. We are deeply committed to making healthy physical activity more accessible and more fun—in other words, habit-forming!
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
Fit Kids measures success by numbers of kids participating, program renewals—the share of Partner Sites that have the capacity and the intention to continue the program the following year—and participant outcomes, including positive changes in fitness levels, motor skills and social-emotional skills.