City of Greater Sudbury Healthy Kids Community Challenge: Highlights of Evaluation

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge (the Challenge) was an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Initiative that supported the health and well-being of children. Greater Sudbury was one of 45 communities across Ontario that received funding to promote children’s health with a focus on healthy food, healthy behaviours, and healthy active communities. The Challenge ran from 2015 to 2018.

Children and families in Greater Sudbury participated in healthy activities, learned new skills, and had fun!

Community partners worked together to offer activities and make participation easy for everyone.

The Challenge focused on different themes relating to children’s physical activity, healthy eating, and wellness. In 2015, the first theme “Run. Jump. Play. Everyday!” was launched, with the goal of increasing physical activity and play in children. The second theme, “Water does Wonders!” was launched in 2016, promoting water instead of sugary drinks. “Choose to Boost Veggies and Fruit” was the healthy eating theme in 2017, and “Power Off and Play!” was the final theme in 2018, promoting a reduction in screen time and sedentary behaviour.

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge evaluation team with members from Public Health Sudbury & Districts, the Evaluating Children’s Health Outcomes Research Centre at Laurentian University, and the City of Greater Sudbury gathered input at key moments throughout the Challenge, drawing on the insights of children, parents, and partners. This report describes some of the key evaluation results.

Early in the Challenge, adult influencers on children’s health and well-being (parents/caregivers, teachers/educators, coaches and mentors, and health care professionals) were consulted about assets, barriers, and priorities for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge in Greater Sudbury.1 Here’s what they recommended as priorities:

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge responded to all of these recommendations! Read on to find out how, from the perspectives of kids, parents/caregivers, and community stakeholders.

Kids and active play

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge had a focus on healthy, active play as part of daily living. There were many program offerings that created screen-free opportunities for physical activity as an enjoyable, accessible, affordable way for kids and families to spend time together. Community Challenge Theme 1 Report Card [PDF 2MB]




One example of an initiative promoting active play and spending time without screens, the Mobile Adventure Playground, traveled around to city parks throughout the summer of 2018. The playground provided materials and objects that children could use to create, build and play with minimal prompts or rules from adults.

An evaluation of the Mobile Adventure Playground using digital storytelling gave kids the chance to tell their own stories about active, creative play.2

Children enjoyed this type of unstructured play. They encountered challenges and had to use team work to solve problems. Their experiences with the ups and downs (literally!) of their projects built resilience and new skills.  

They also made friends by planning and working together toward a shared goal.

By working with the digital storytelling approach, children learned to communicate in a new way, using pictures and stories. 

Here is some of what they had to say:

We had fun!

“So I made a ball pit with a tunnel tent and beads . . . so there was a bucket full of beads and I had the idea of pouring the beads into the tent and it made a ball pit so that was what we called it  . . . the ball pit!”

“First, we found the equipment, like a cardboard box, paper, paint, and tape. We planned to use this equipment to build a huge fort! Once we got all of it, we started to make the fort. I was getting really excited because there were so many things I could use for my fort.”

Well, it wasn’t all fun.

“We had a big tube that we were going to use as a tower for our castle. I was painting it and it fell on top of me. I got paint up my arm and in my hair. It got on the grass. And it was awful.”

We felt good about what we did!

“We all felt amazing and proud!”

“People were crowding around and they felt so accomplished. It started raining and there was wind, but the fort was so strong, the girls had no idea. They were very proud and started singing and dancing. They laughed and people came around to talk.”

We enjoyed this adventure with our friends.

“How me and my friends met was our parents worked together and surprised us with a playdate, a huge playdate, and we built this huge fort together.”

“Then we all started laughing, then we just started hanging out and named us the Fantastic Four. Then we did the MAP together. I was happy about making new friends.”

Kids and active transportation

As part of supporting physical activity, supports for active transportation were included in the Challenge.

Active transportation

The Walk and Wheel to School Challenge and the Walking School Bus provided safe, fun ways for kids to use active transportation to get to and from school.  Kids enjoyed keeping track of their activity in the Challenge!

A brief evaluation of the Walking School Bus pilot3 focused on the process for the three schools that were involved. Many partners supported the pilot. Trained “drivers” accompanied the students as they walked to school along safe, accessible routes. Parents and students felt more confident with walking to school when there was an organized and supervised route. However, it was still challenging to get the students organized and keep up the participation.

Parents commented on the experiences of walking to school:

Seeing kids along the way, and by the time you get to school they might have gathered 3 to 4 kids and how social is that, right? I think it’s wonderful there are different age groups, so the older kids might be learning responsibilities that they didn’t have before, watching out for the little ones, holding their hand when they cross the street.”4

Even children who already walked to school benefited from the program:

“They already are walkers to school, so it wasn’t like this changed anything for them, but they really did enjoy clocking their hours, their kilometers.”5

Parents/caregivers and physical activity

An important aspect of the Challenge is the recognition that parents and other adults have an important influence on children’s behaviours. If parents encourage healthy behaviour, children will follow suit!

An evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! theme drew on the perspectives of parents and caregivers about physical activity for their children and families.6

Parents and caregivers described what makes an appealing opportunity that increases physical activity for their child:

Several parents said that encouraging physical activity was a way to reduce the amount of time their child spent in front of a screen.

“Because we are so bombarded with electronics nowadays, it’s awesome to get out there and not have that screen time. Just get away from the screen, get outside!”7

A total of 53 child care centres, recreation and afterschool programs signed up to the Power Off and Play Here! campaign, with programs that don’t include recreational screen time. Community Challenge Theme 4 Report Card [PDF 2 MB]



The Challenge provided opportunities for physical activity that were accessible, safe, low- or no-cost, and enjoyable! The programming aimed to overcome barriers to participation, by sharing equipment such as snowshoes, and providing training such as bike riding and swimming lessons. The cost of activities was an important factor for many parents. The high cost of some sports and activities was mentioned as a barrier to families experiencing low-income. Many parents noted that a great benefit of the Challenge activities was that they were free. According to the parents surveyed, the fact that all Challenge activities were offered for free remained the most important reason parents chose to allow their children to participate in a Healthy Kids Community Challenge activity.8

Skill-building is an important contribution the Challenge made to help children feel confident in participating in physical activity. Ninety percent (90%) of parents/caregivers reported that their child did learn and will continue a new skill/activity because they participated in a Healthy Kids Community Challenge “Run. Jump. Play. Everyday!” activity. These skills include swimming, skating, and cycling.9

Parents commented:10

“Being a single mom not working, this program helped both funding for the bike and also feel better about them knowing the proper cycling rules (Learn to Cycle/Cycle Smart).”

“Don’t change a thing. My child learnt how to swim and gained confidence and swims without water wings in the pool. It was awesome. He was very proud (Learn to Swim Program).”

“I did like that it was part of the school programming and I also liked that my child received a certificate of participation at the end which indicated the recommended level to continue swimming lessons. I have since registered my child for swimming lessons, she has already completed 2 levels and is moving on to the next one (Learn to Swim Program).”

Outside in Winter

Physical activity is important all year ‘round! During the winter months, programs like the Winter Wonder school field trips to Lake Laurentian Conservation Area offered free outdoor education field trips for selected schools. Approximately 500 children participated.

Another Challenge initiative made snowshoes free to borrow through a partnership with public libraries. Three-hundred and eleven (311) pairs of snowshoes were checked out from public libraries in 2016.

Healthy Kids skating instructors were available at skating rinks, including Ramsey Lake, and helped 77 kids and families who wanted to learn to skate or improve their skills.

The Snow Day Winter Festival was a large event held in February each year in 2016, 2017, and 2018, attracting more participants each time. Kids and families had a chance to experience all kinds of outdoor activities and sports, as well as spending time by the campfire for storytelling.

Families and healthy eating

Healthy Kids Community Challenge themes promoted choosing water rather than sugary drinks and eating vegetables and fruit as part of a healthy diet. The Challenge provided water fountains and filling stations in key locations, providing easy access to water to drink. Community Challenge Theme 2 Report Card [PDF 3 MB] Community Challenge Theme 3 Report Card [PDF 7 MB]

“Tap” and “Thirsty”, the fun and friendly, bilingual, “Water Animators”, made 79 visits and saw 3000 children at playgrounds, events, and festivals. During their visits, the “Water Animators” taught children and families about the benefits of making the switch to water.

The Team Water Challenge created an opportunity for coaches or team managers of children’s sports teams to commit to drinking tap water at games and practices. Between July and September 2016, 24 teams (304 children) participated in the challenge and received a large refillable water cooler and reusable cups. The Team Water Challenge improved access to tap water while also promoting the use of tap water over sugar-sweetened beverages at games and practices.

Food skills

Healthy food access


Food Skills for Kids and Families involved training individuals and volunteers to deliver the Adventures in Cooking program which teaches basic cooking skills to children; 170 classes were held in 2018.

The Good Food Box MARCHÉ held 12 Pop-Up Fruit and Veggie markets in two neighbourhoods where grocery store access is limited, selling fresh fruit and veggies at cost to 435 local families (708 children).

The “Super Snackables”ere out in the community making 76 visits to parks and children’s programs. Through their visits, the “Super Snackables” reached 3400 kids and provided them with our featured fruit and veggies of the month so that they could try them.

Community stakeholders reflect on the Healthy Kids Community Challenge

The Challenge involved partners from different community sectors (for instance, public health, education, recreation, local businesses) working together to implement programs and activities that support healthy behaviours in children.

Healthy Kids Community Challenge made a difference!



Programs were free and emphasized the creation of opportunities for children who might not otherwise participate. An analysis of the City of Greater Sudbury costs associated with the Sudbury Swims! Supportive Learn to Swim Program, Supportive Cycling Program, and the Supportive Learn to Skate Program demonstrate that it is possible to offer programs that provide a considerable social return on investment without requiring a large monetary investment.11

Teachers provided feedback about the Learn to Swim Program:

“Many of our students do not participate in any organized sports because their families are unable to pay the associated fees. For most of my students, this was their first and possibly only time they will receive swimming lessons.”


The Challenge was successful in using social media. By 2018, Facebook was reaching 23 953 people on average per month!

The evaluation of theme 1: “Run. Jump. Play. Everyday!”, showed that the most common ways online survey participants heard about the Healthy Kids Community Challenge activities were through word of mouth (50%) and Facebook (36%); followed by (16%), radio (14%) and poster (12%).

Working together

The Challenge emphasized leadership from community partners, all coming together to support children’s health and wellness. Working in partnership was an important part of the experience and resulted in a strong program that met multiple needs. An evaluation was conducted to provide insight into the partnership aspect of the Challenge in Greater Sudbury.12 Partners felt that the Challenge had strengthened their relationships and allowed them to participate in the group initiative for the benefit of children and families. Although the partner organizations already had mandates that aligned with Healthy Kids Community Challenge, it was important to have structures and leadership that allowed all partners to participate in decision-making and understand what was happening with the Challenge overall. Every respondent (100%) indicated that the Challenge aligned with their organizational goals and 94% indicated that the Challenge helped to develop collaborative relationships between organizations. This will be of benefit to the community, as it can help organizations accomplish their goals more effectively by working together, and has the capacity to make changes within Greater Sudbury.

Partners commented:13

“I find the program is really good to help the community and our youth stay active and eat better. The snacks provided after are a big hit with our youth. The physical activities that this program brings is great for all!”

“We’re coming together as a community because we realize that healthy kids is just an important thing.”

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge in Greater Sudbury aligned with the recommendations of adult influencers consulted early in the initiative. Programs addressed these needs:

Given the wide range of recommendations, there is still more that can be done to support a healthy community for kids and families, and the sustainability of Healthy Kids Community Challenge programs may be a challenge now that the government funding has come to an end.

One favourable outcome is that the City of Greater Sudbury is establishing affordable access to recreation strategies to facilitate those wishing to participate in leisure and recreation activities. This is an extension of the universal recreation programs and activities offered by the Challenge.

The Challenge funding also created numerous opportunities to increase the capacity and skills of adult influencers and children in relation to healthy behaviours related to healthy food and physical activity.  These sustainable skills will continue to contribute to happy healthy populations.

By working together and aligning program offerings, community partners will continue to address these and other needs of families in Greater Sudbury.

  1. (2016.) Sudbury Healthy Kids Community Challenge: Focus Group Report
  2. (2018). Healthy Kids Community Challenge Mobile Adventure Playground Evaluation: Digital Storytelling Workshop.
  3. (2017). St Pierre, Z. Walking School Buses in Sudbury: Lessons Learned and Recommendations. Presentation to HKCC Planning and Advisory Committee.
  4. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  5. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  6. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  7. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  8. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  9. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  10. (2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions
  11. (2018). HKCC Return on Investment
  12. (2017). Partnership Evaluation Including PAC Focus Group Feedback
  13. (2017). Partnership Evaluation Including PAC Focus Group Feedback


(2016.) Sudbury Healthy Kids Community Challenge: Focus Group Report

(2018). Healthy Kids Community Challenge Mobile Adventure Playground Evaluation: Digital Storytelling Workshop.

St Pierre, Z. (2017). Walking School Buses in Sudbury: Lessons Learned and Recommendations. Presentation to HKCC Planning and Advisory Committee.

(2017). Evaluation of the Run. Jump. Play. Everyday! Interventions

(2018). HKCC Return on Investment

(2017). Partnership Evaluation Including PAC Focus Group Feedback

This item was last modified on June 18, 2020