On Friday, June 29, members of Congress and their staff were invited to rediscover their love for summer camp at NRPA’s second annual Summer Camp on Capitol Hill. The DC Department of Parks and Recreation, Maryland National-Capitol Park and Planning Commission, and Caroline County (MD) Recreation and Parks Department joined NRPA at Garfield Park in Washington, D.C., to offer several activities, including arts and crafts, a plant and pollinator project, and a Commit to Health nutrition education taste test. Each of these activities allowed congressional staff to see first-hand what a child experiences at a summer camp or out-of-school-time program offered through park and recreation centers.
In addition to the help we received from our local agencies, DC Scores, the nonprofit partner of the DC United soccer team, and tennis pros from the United States Professional Tennis Association were also on-site to demonstrate the physical activities offered to children over the summer to help them grow, learn and stay active and healthy. Co-sponsors for this year’s Summer Camp on Capitol Hill included the Afterschool Alliance, American Council on Exercise, the Food Research and Action Center, the National Afterschool Association and the National Summer Learning Association. Our affinity partner, Fun Express, provided some awesome giveaways, including NRPA Summer Camp on Capitol Hill water bottles for camp attendees.
Brandon Lipps, acting deputy undersecretary for the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was in attendance to help highlight all the great work park and recreation agencies are doing to ensure kids continue to have access to healthy meals and snacks through the Summer Food Service Program. “USDA has the important role of ensuring kids are fed during the school year and the need for nutrition does not stop during the summer,” says Lipps. “Eighty-three percent of local park and rec departments are offering summer camps and making sure kids have adequate nutrition and are also staying engaged.”
Park and recreation agencies rely on the support of key federal funding streams, including the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Summer Food Service Program. Summer Camp on Capitol Hill attendees saw first-hand how federal funding is critical to fostering healthier youth during out-of-school time (and had a blast while doing it!).
In addition to providing a show-and-tell advocacy opportunity, Summer Camp on Capitol Hill served as a kickoff to the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month, which is observed each July. This year’s theme celebrates the “Lifetime of Discovery” local park and recreation agencies offer their communities, whether it be through STEM programming, older adults programs, innovative health and wellness opportunities, sports parks, aquatic complexes, community celebrations, outdoor education, flood mitigation, maintenance and more.
See the Advocacy column, “August Congressional Recess: The Opportune Time for Advocating for Parks and Recreation,” to learn more about how you can advocate for the federal funding that supports your local parks and recreation agency by becoming a Park Champion. You can also learn more about NRPA’s Park Champion initiative by contacting Jayni Rasmussen, NRPA’s advocacy and outreach manager.
Megan Phillippi is NRPA’s Public Policy Intern