Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to help prevent childhood obesity by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in after-school programs.

Senate Bill 949 establishes a voluntary California Distinguished After School Health (DASH) recognition program. It proposes standards for physical activity, “screen time,” and the serving of fruits and vegetables for after-school programs. After-school programs that choose to meet these proposed requirements will be awarded a special “DASH” certification.

Under the bill, parents can access a list of “DASH”-certified programs on the State Department of Education’s website, and after-school programs can display their certification on-site.

“Childhood obesity is a challenge we should be tackling on a number of fronts,” Jackson said. “This bill is about rewarding and recognizing after-school programs that are making that voluntary yet vitally important effort to make children’s health a top priority, and I’m very pleased the governor has signed it into law. Good eating and exercise habits, when developed early, can add to the long-term quality of life and reduce the costs of health care later on.”

In order to be “DASH”-certified, after-school programs must limit television or computer “screen time” and serve fruits or vegetables as snacks on a daily basis; serve no fried foods, candy or sugary or high sodium foods or foods with transfats; and limit the sugary beverages that are served.

In order to be “DASH”-certified, SB 949 also requires 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity a day and staff training on healthy eating and physical activity standards.

There are more than 4,400 publicly funded after-school programs in California serving more than 1.5 million children.

“The YMCA of the USA is extremely pleased that SB 949, a measure sponsored by the California State Alliance of YMCAs, has been signed into law. Not only will the Distinguished After School Health program — DASH — have the potential to benefit over 1.5 million children in after-school programs throughout California, we also see this as a tremendous model for other states as well,” said Judy Barrett Miller, senior manager of state advocacy for Y-USA.

Despite a slight drop in recent years, California’s childhood obesity rate remains dangerously high. In California, one out of three children are obese or overweight.

Obese children are at an increased risk of becoming obese adults and developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, depression and cancer.

The standards recommended in the bill are based on research and the Institute of Medicine’s Early Childhood Obesity Prevention policies and the National Afterschool Association’s standards.

DASH certifications would be valid for one year, but could be renewed each year if the program continues to meet the standards.

SB 949 will take effect Jan. 1.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate district, which includes all of the Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.