Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) has announced its continued support for the Active Schools Grant Program, a partnership with the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education designed to reduce childhood obesity by increasing school-based physical activity for students.

The Active Schools Grant Program was launched last summer. Grants up to $15,000 were made available to middle schools throughout the commonwealth to help them purchase equipment and introduce structured physical activities for their students.

Schools applied for $5,000 grants through the Department of Health, with local schools eligible for a $10,000 match from BCNEPA.

The program is being offered to elementary schools this year.

"We are continuing our support of the Active Schools Grant Program to address a serious issue in Pennsylvania – childhood obesity," says Denise S. Cesare, president and CEO of BCNEPA. "Statistics show that more than 31 percent of Pennsylvania children in grades K-6 are either overweight or obese.

"Given the success of the Active Schools Program in middle schools last year, we want to offer that same opportunity to elementary schools throughout our 13 counties this year."

For funding during the 2010-2011 academic year, local K-6 schools are encouraged to apply through the Department of Health until the deadline June 10.

Schools must use the grant to implement evidence-based physical activity programs that meet the federal guidelines for moderate to vigorous daily activity.

Schools may select programs from a preapproved list, or they can structure their own program as long as students receive the recommended amount of activity daily.

BCNEPA is one of six organizations statewide that have again agreed to provide a 2:1 match to the Department of Health funds, making each elementary school eligible for up to $15,000.

BCNEPA has committed up to $100,000 to support the program.

Middle schools selected last year will be able to continue their programs in year two with a modest grant from the Department of Health without having to reapply.

Among the local schools receiving grants for the 2009-2010 academic school year were Weatherly Area Elementary/Middle School in Carbon County and Clear Run and Swiftwater Intermediate Schools in Monroe County.

For more information on the Active Schools Grant Program, or to download an application, schools throughout northeastern and north central Pennsylvania are encouraged to visit the PA Department of Health website at www.health.state.pa.us.