Health and Wellness Focused Town Halls Address the Needs of Local Communities

Since we launched almost three years ago, GENYOUth has collaborated across disciplines to bring together thought leaders with a vested interest in child health and wellness. To date, conversations have taken place at the national level through our 2012 inaugural Nutrition + Physical Activity Learning Connection Summit in DC and subsequently at our three Leadership Roundtables, all of which sought to inspire and ignite collective action.

At our second Leadership Roundtable in February of this year, a brilliant idea surfaced that I am proud to say is finally coming to fruition. National Roundtable participants unanimously agreed that for change to take place the conversation must occur at the local level where leaders who know their communities best will work with and in their schools to share the importance of learning connection message, the impact that healthy nutrition combined with physical activity have on academic performance and behavior. The Learning Connection Town Halls we're rolling out today were designed to be local extensions of GENYOUth's Leadership Roundtables, providing a forum for local businesses, leaders, community members, students and anyone with an interest and stake in the health and wellness of students and schools to share their ideas and opinions.

For the past several months GENYOUth and our partners have worked with communities, and the leaders within them to plan Town Halls in six cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Columbus (OH), Denver and Indianapolis. Each event will reflect the particular needs and issues of that city's schools, feature local representatives from education, government, health and academia and help drive attention to the learning connection. While there's critical research supporting the learning connection, it is is only just starting to become a part of the lexicon. Much more work has to be done!

We hope these events will help spread the message and elevate the importance of the learning connection and most importantly, give parents, educators, community leaders and students in towns across the country useful information that will help make them bigger leaders and advocates in their own communities and give them the ability to share transformational thinking that will above all uplift the importance of the health and wellbeing of our children by making sure we work together to create a large scale movement. At GENYOUth we believe in the power of partnerships, which is why we're working with partners who understand the culture and climate of these cities, to help make the Town Halls both productive and successful, and to demonstrate that no one can tackle this issue alone. We must work together.

Today GENYOUth will co-host our first Town Hall with the Quaker Oats Company and Midwest Dairy Council, an affiliate of the National Dairy Council (NDC). Quaker has been a leader from day one advocating for real change in their backyard. Through Midwest Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Company's support they have empowered tens of thousands of schools and children through our flagship program Fuel Up to Play 60 to eat healthier and be more physically active. Enabling schools to apply for grants to fund physical activity and nutrition solutions in their school environment has been a game changer. We recognize that this gives us a tremendous foundation of knowledge to build a Town Hall on. In each market, we're working in lock-step with partners like Quaker Oats and Jamba Juice to tap-in to community resources and invite influencers who will contribute their expertise and drive action beyond the event itself.

It stands to reason that the most important part of advancing school health will be YOU. As members of your communities, the change starts with you. We hope that you will read about our Town Hall series on social media and give us your ideas and opinions.

Read the official press release on the goals and opportunities for the Learning Connection Town Halls and follow me and GENYOUth on Facebook and Twitter for live updates and ideas. We'll be tracking the conversation through the #fuelupplaylearn hashtag.

All it takes is one individual with passion and drive to spark change. Just imagine the potential impact of one great idea supported by the community and their ability to breathe life and energy into that idea. We can't wait to see what happens next.