SPAN: State Physical Activity & Nutrition for Arkansas

SPAN logo Arkansas ranks 48th on the national health indicators with 35.7 percent being obese, 31 percent having no physical activity and less than half of the state’s adults eating fruit more than once per day. Children aren’t faring well either with only 68 percent of infantArkansas map with highlighted countiess ever having been breastfed, and these children are growing up in a state where 23 percent of the kids are overweight or obese.

SPAN’s five-year mission is to reverse these unhealthy numbers, starting with nine Arkansas counties that show urgent health disparities.


Food service guidelines offer a set of standards so that healthier choices are available. SPAN is developing these guidelines for early childhood education Graphic of various vegetablesprograms, developmental disability day centers, state parks and all food pantries and the food banks that serve them. See chart. A pantry-nutrition assessment tool will be created, which all food banks and pantries can use, eventually spilling over to developmental disability day centers which can use this tool. In state parks, SPAN is scanning the foods sold in vending machines or at concession stands and is working with the Arkansas Municipal League to build park concession policies.

Early Childhood Education Centers

Early childhood education centers are one of SPAN’s primary targets, especially those that serve low-income families such as Head Start or AR Better Chance programs. SPANGraphic of African-American mom with baby uses an evidence-based curriculum called WISE (Together We Inspire Smart Eating) which offers teachers lesson plans on eight fruits and vegetables along with interactive food experiences paired with math and reading. SPAN also plans to partner with Arkansas’ Division of Child Care and Early Childhood education to improve standards for physical activity and nutrition in early childhood education centers. This will reach children ages 0 to 5.

News / Events for Early Childhood Education


Breastfeeding benefits both the mother and the child, but statistics show that only 68 percent of Arkansas infants have ever been breastfed, and the numbers drop for low-incomes households. Thirty-two percent of low-income, white, rural mothers breastfeed some, but only 8 percent continued for six months. For low-income black urban women, only 25 percent breastfeed, with 12 percent breastfeeding six months.  SPAN is working to increase those numbers in two ways:

  • Educating physicians and nurses on breastfeeding and how to support new mothers during the critical few weeks after delivery. If you’re a family medicine practitioner and want to know more about this breastfeeding initiative, click here to read more.
  • Working with early childhood education centers on breastfeeding and milk storing policies, training staff and encouraging breastfeeding on site by promoting them as BFFs or Breast-Feeding Friendly

Watch our latest video for family medicine providers on the importance of breastfeeding

News / Events for Breastfeeding

Physical Activity

Graphic of runnersBike trails, walking paths and sidewalks encourage healthy lifestyles, and SPAN is working with cities and state agencies to help build these connections to everyday destinations and increase physical activity for all abilities. We’re also working with the Arkansas Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan which has proposed routes to become U.S. Bike Route corridors, connecting Arkansas to neighboring states and linking communities to a growing network of trails. See video. 
ad story in Bike Arkansas.

Active People, Healthy Nation℠ is a national initiative to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027.Additionally, SPAN has scanned for needed activity-friendly routes and will help design guidelines and realistic policies. If your community is interested in being a part of this project, email

Want to learn more? Contact Matt Mitchell, SPAN program manager, at or

News / Events for Physical Activity