Educating and empowering children and their families to make improved decisions regarding fitness and nutrition.

What if children become the driving force that creates healthy behavioral changes and drives demand for access to healthier foods?

Photo of Robert Oliver
9 6

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In 2004, I was not being fulfilled with my job on Wall Street and realized the best part of my day was coaching soccer to kids in a low-income neighborhood. Combining my passion for fitness and nutrition, as well as my desire to become involved in the education field, I started a nonprofit company called FAN4kids. I realized children needed to be "coached" on a weekly basis, during the school day, about how to live a health lifestyle.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Bronx, NY and Newark, NJ

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In 2013, RWJF ranked the Bronx the unhealthiest county in New York State – 62nd out of 62 counties. The national survey considers factors such as: childhood poverty, obesity levels, access to physicians, access to healthy foods, and levels of physical inactivity. Additionally, the NYC Department of Health reported that nearly one child in three in Head Start programs is obese. The FAN4Kids program directly targets this problem in the Bronx, as well as other New York City boroughs and Newark, New Jersey, and has been proven to bring about positive changes in health behaviors in children and their families in these communities.

FAN4Kids has created an innovative teaching model that provides a cutting edge approach to the treatment and prevention of obesity-related behaviors, such as poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles that are prevalent among low-income populations. The model addresses the multifaceted causes of unhealthy lifestyles in disadvantaged communities and identifies children most at risk within an academic setting, while providing on-site personnel to educate and implement lifestyle interventions that are learned, enjoyed and adopted by disadvantaged children and their families.

FAN4Kids has a comprehensive, yearlong curriculum that is unique, as it addresses both nutrition and fitness. Our curriculum is implemented through our own instructors, who teach five 50- minute lessons a day (alternating weekly between nutrition and fitness) and provide a structured recess program for the entire school year for all elementary school grades (pre-K through 4th grade).

FAN4Kids works closely with the school administration and parents and within the community, as we believe that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to combat this epidemic. Our theory has been corroborated by studies that show that school, family and community are some of the most important foci for preventive efforts in children. And given that many different factors influence obesity levels, effective prevention requires a program that approaches these factors simultaneously.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Our 11-years of data prove the positive impact of FAN4Kids. Summarizing a phone call from a parent embodies all we aim to achieve at FAN4Kids: A parent from one of our Bronx schools called FAN4Kids. She wanted to thank us because, and I paraphrase, “My 3rd grade child lost 25 pounds last year, and my child helped change the behaviors of our entire family, by eating healthier foods and being more active.” The parent proudly said, “I lost more weight than that, because we do things as a family. And Annette (the FAN4Kids instructor) made healthy living easy.”

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Year-End highlights from June 2015: 1) Year-end Parent Surveys (768 parents completed) - 66% of parents saw increased vegetable consumption and 76% of parents saw an increase in physical activity for their children & families 2) Fitness Assessment – Pre vs Post Program Over 1,200 children in Bronx & Queens schools, 1st to 4th grade, completed a 3 to 4 minute timed shuttle run in Sept 2014 (Pre) and in May 2015 (Post) On average, the number of laps completed increased by 30% in the May test 3) Recess Surveys 736 total days of observances from teachers re students’ behavior: Classroom disturbances following F4K recess were reduced by 39% compared to non-F4K recess days 4) Body Mass Index (BMI) – Pre (Sept 2014) vs Post Program (June 2015) 1,932 students grades K - 4 present for both Pre and Post height and weight measurements. 13% reduction in % of overweight /obese kids

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

FAN4Kids was able to improve its staffing and infrastructure in 2015-16. We hired a Senior Development Director (December 2015), a Project Manager (October 2015), and a full-time instructor for Newark (August 2015), while adding four new Board members in January 2016 (reaching our 2016 goal to have a total of at least 12 board members). With this added staffing, we expect to grow and sustain our presence in Metro New York and New Jersey.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

FAN4Kids is unique in that we offer year-round nutrition and fitness education underserved children and their families. Our innovative program, implemented by well trained FAN4Kids instructors, addresses issues related to both nutrition and fitness by teaching five, 50-minute lessons a day. Coursework alternates weekly between nutrition and fitness while providing a structured recess program for the entire school year to assure that children keep moving and have a great time doing it. FAN4Kids implements its program, which does not add to the responsibilities of already overworked teachers

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

FAN4Kids programming follows a simple logic model: The FAN4Kids instructor is a role model or “coach,” who educates and leads by example. Kids realize that it’s cool to be fit, trying new foods can be fun, and teaching their family “how to be healthy” is empowering. Children become the messengers of health, and they are powerful. It takes time, but administrators, teachers and families join in the effort to create healthy lifestyles.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)


Program Design Clarity

The FAN4Kids Model is comprised of three multi-faceted components: educating children, enlisting parents, and mobilizing the community. Our core program involves FAN4Kids instructors implementing grade-specific, comprehensive fitness and nutrition curriculum, which utilizes scope and sequence for the entire academic year, thereby essentially becoming part of the school staff. Instructors form strong relationships with the children and serve as positive role models. This “hands-on” method engages students in the learning process, and children learn that it is “cool” to be fit.

Community Leadership

Mobilizing and empowering the community is an important aspect of the FAN4Kids model. Public elementary schools with strong administrations are among our most important partners. Each year, we meet with school leadership and parents with the goal of continually enhancing our curriculum and program. We also have strong support from NYC City Council members, who financially help us provide programming to our target urban public schools.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12

Spread Strategies

After 12 years, FAN4Kids has proven the ability to change health behaviors of children, who become the messengers of or change agents for school health environment and in their homes. Our programmatic model is turnkey and scalable. Modeled after Teach for America, FAN4Kids simply trains instructors to teach fitness and nutrition in schools, first in the NY metropolitan area, then to other large cities across the US.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Educating and helping young children develop social skills and build confidence improves their attitude about learning and broadens their intellectual curiosity. Over the past few years, the school community asked that we expand lessons on social and emotional learning, which are issues that FAN4Kids inherently addresses. We have added lessons including Sportsmanship, Self-discipline and Self-Control, and Mindfulness, Meditation and Breathing.

Leadership Story

In 2003, tired of the world of Wall Street and excited to find a career in which I could be passionate about, my job search quickly turned to the field of education. The highlights of my day were on the soccer field, coaching co-ed kids ages 7-10, and I knew my career had to involve kids. One of my college roommates, heavily involved in K-12 education, suggested that given my background as an athlete and coach, that I should somehow tackle the issue of childhood obesity in America. I thought, "Why not dream big, and what better place to start than with very young kids in schools?"

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

- New Yorker of the Week in February 2015. - Nominated by NY City Council Member Annabel Palma for the NYPL Brooke Russell Astor Award in 2015.

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 50%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 50%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 0%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 33.3%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 33.3%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 33.3%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 33.3%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 50%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 16.7%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 50%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 16.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 100%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%

Attachments (1)

F4K Report General 2.23.16.pdf

FAN4Kids Executive Report for Year Ending June 2015. Results have been consistent over the last seven years, since we started collecting these data.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Caroline Webb

Awesome blog I found and read from this website on educating and empowering children and their families to make improved decisions regarding fitness and nutrition. You chose really good topic for the blog.
Regards, Caroline.

View all comments