Update: April 21, 2015 — There is an updated version of this award. Click here to learn more.
Drink Right, Move More, Snack Smart.
Those six small words hold big power. Power to make your unit, and therefore your Scouts, healthier.
Changes you employ today could have positive rewards that last Scouts a lifetime. And speaking of rewards, if you make three health-conscious changes over the next three months, you’ll earn a special patch for everyone in your unit. Now do I have your attention?
There’s more than a patch at stake, though. For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.
Sure, mom and dad play a vital role in their children’s diet and exercise habits. But Scout leaders can make a difference, too. After all, you’re with these kids one night a week and one weekend a month, typically. What you do at unit meetings and campouts matters.
Ask yourself: How active are your meetings? What snacks do you serve? What do Scouts drink?
The Boy Scouts of America has partnered with Healthy Kids Out of School to offer an incentive to reconsider your answers to those three questions.
Say hello to the Healthy Unit Patch, which encourages units to follow the BSA’s SCOUTStrong recommendations at meetings, events and excursions.
Adopt the three healthy principles below by completing the 3–6–9 challenge, and you’ll earn patches for every Scout in your unit. It’s easy and fun. Here’s how:
Complete the 3–6–9 challenge
Make these three positive changes — and track them using the scoresheet found under “Resources” below — and you’ll earn the Healthy Unit Patch.
3: Serve a fruit or vegetable at 3 meetings
6: Make water the main beverage at 6 meetings
9: Include 15 minutes of physical activity at 9 meetings
Once your unit has completed all of the Healthy Unit Patch activities, please send the completed tracker form to: HealthyKidsOutofSchool@tufts.edu or call Healthy Kids Out of School at (617) 636-0833, for free patches for your Scouts and a certificate for your unit.
Those Units who complete the Healthy Unit Patch and mail their scoresheet to HealthyKidsOutOfSchool@Tufts.edu by June 30, 2014, will be entered into a random drawing for one of five free cases of the Drink Right water bottles seen at right. They come 50 to a case.
Why this matters
This isn’t just the BSA recommending you make these changes.
Eric H. Schultz is president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Healthy Kids Out of School’s major supporter. He’s also a distinguished Eagle Scout.
That makes him uniquely qualified to speak about both the health side and the Scouting side of this new opportunity to make meetings healthier.
“As a lifelong volunteer in Scouting, I appreciate the values, dedication and commitment it takes to be a strong leader,” he says. “Through the Foundation’s support year round, out-of-school time programs like the Boy Scouts are making after-school programs healthier.
“By emphasizing smart snacks and more movement, we are setting positive examples for our young Scouts by encouraging them to earn the Healthy Unit Patch, ultimately creating a healthier Scouting experience.”
Positive feedback from testing
Alyssa Koomas, regional project manager for Healthy Kids Out of School, agrees. She said the Healthy Unit Patch, which units can complete in about three months, has been well-received in initial testing in the New England area.
“We’ve been traveling around three states in the area to roundtable meetings,” she said. “The goal for us is to show Scout leaders that by encouraging water, fruits and vegetables, and physical activity during their den or troop meetings, they can make a big impact. Once leaders hear what’s at stake and how simple it is to make a difference, they’re totally onboard. We’ve had a wonderful response.”
Koomas and her colleagues even spent time teaching fun, active games to a bunch of grown-ups at roundtable meetings.
“It was really fun to see these grown men hopping up and down and getting them out of their comfort zones,” Koomas said. “And they say, ‘I can do this.’”
Start earning the patch now, and your Scouts will be on their way to establishing healthy lifelong habits!
Resources to get you started
- Healthy Unit Patch overview (PDF)
- Healthy Unit Patch tracker/scoresheet (PDF)
- Healthy Unit Patch parent letter (PDF)
- Healthy Kids Hub with great resources and tips
- April 2013 blog post where I introduced the BSA’s partnership with Healthy Kids Out of School
What they said
Here are some selected quotes from Scouters in New England who tried the Healthy Unit Patch pilot program:
- “I was motivated to do the patch because of the reaction of my son, who was present for the roundtable training. He had fun, and seeing his enthusiasm, I wanted to help our Cubs earn the patch. For younger Scouts, it is all about instant gratification. They really wanted to work on this patch.”
- “Seeing that most children see fast food as a food group, it is worth doing this program to help them make better choices now, and when they are older.”
- “Parents were in agreement about working on this. Nothing additional had to be done at home. They are so busy and I didn’t have to ask them to do anymore for this patch. We have a very large pack, the boys have a lot of enthusiasm, and the families are involved in what we do.”
- “We have completed this activity to earn the patch, but the Cubs liked the activities so much, they want to do it more.”
- “Feedback from the parents was all positive. And, my wife and I are revisiting all of this for our own health, too.”
- “At the Pinewood Derby on Sunday, my wife and I ran the kitchen (Pit Stop Grill). We only served water. If it’s the only thing available, people will drink it. We had fruit, and it went very well. Given the choice, kids will choose fruit, if it is available.”
- “This fits in so well for Scouts — the focus on health, getting the kids up and moving. It’s how we run.”
- “The Tiger Cubs are really engaged and trying new things … and that is what Cub Scouts is all about. I can tell you, we will do this again next year.”
- “For other leaders, tell them to bring their kids and see their enthusiasm. Keeping them active is so important. When we started, they were excited. They wanted to do it.”
- “We don’t do sports, but we can promote recreation that you can do all your lives. Our core activities and nutrition/health/fitness are very connected, but we need to raise awareness and shift the culture of leaders.”
Healthy Kids is an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University with major funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation