Late 2009, RGK Foundation began developing a strategic and measured approach to address the nation's childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on the improvement of middle school children's health through physical activity. While many factors-such as diet, exercise, family history, psychological, environmental, developmental, and socioeconomic status-can influence children's risk of becoming overweight, it is widely acknowledged that a critical part of healthy living and weight loss is physical activity. In the summer of 2010, RGK Foundation commissioned internationally regarded researcher Steven H. Kelder, PhD, MPH, Co-Director, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living to review: (1) the demographic profile of middle school children in Texas; (2) middle school physical education programs with demonstrated efficacy in raising levels of physical activity; (3) middle school physical education professional guidelines, recommendations and best practices; and (4) physical education policies intended to increase levels of physical activity among middle school children.
Kelder's report, Stuck in the Middle: The False Choice Between Health and Education in Texas Middle Schools, was published in October of 2010 and included recommendations for programs and policies. The Report is available here and RGK Foundation encourages interested parties to review and share the report without requesting permission.
RGK Foundation issued a Request for Proposals in December 2010 for agencies to help disseminate Kelder's report findings during the 2011 Legislative Session. The following agencies were awarded advocacy mini-grants to conduct this work on behalf of the Foundation:
- The Cooper Institute - Dallas, Texas
- Children at Risk - Houston, Texas
- Marathon Kids - Austin, Texas
- Texas Impact Education Fund - Austin, Texas
- United Way Metropolitan - Dallas, Texas
In September of 2011, RGK Foundation awarded its first program grants related to improving the physical activity of middle school students in Texas:
- $645,064 to disseminate CATCH Middle School program to 300 public middle schools throughout Texas;
- $467,627 to fully implement CATCH at 35 public middle schools in Dallas ISD;
- $150,000 to Austin ISD to support the implementation of HOPSports at six middle schools and to integrate P.E. and classroom teacher-led "brain breaks" into the instructional day
- $50,000 to YMCA of Austin to support Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It (MEND) Program
In 2012, RGK Foundation commissioned Dr. Kelder to produce an update to the 2010 "Stuck in the Middle" Report that focuses on revenue neutral policy solutions to youth fitness problems in Texas. The 2012 update report is guiding the Foundation's work with advocacy partners during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session.
In response to an RFP issued in September 2012, RGK awarded Advocacy Minigrants to the following agencies:
- Active Life
- Children at Risk
- Texans Care for Children
- Texas Food Bank Network
- United Way Metropolitan Dallas