Every night the children across the street from my apartment play on the sidewalk. They mostly play soccer and football, all on a 3 ft. wide surface of concrete (sandwiched by another foot or so of dirt and clumps of grass on either side). They play until nightfall, and then another hour or two after.
This serves as a daily reminder to me about the importance of our Safe Places to Play initiative. While I think it’s fantastic that the neighbor’s children are playing outside, and not sitting inside logging screen time, it speaks to the fact that there is not an accessible park or recreational facility nearby.
Significant research has been done on the lack of access to healthy food options, or food deserts. This research has been vital in taking action steps to transform neighborhoods into healthier communities. Recently, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted play deserts as another health priority. A “Play Desert” is defined as “a geographical area that does not have a play space such as an outdoor park, public recreation center, or green space present and accessible for use by youth for active play.”
As one might imagine, food deserts and play deserts are all too common in underserved communities. Active Living Research shows that, while the presence of parks and recreational facilities is linked to higher levels of physical activity among youth, groups in underserved communities have limited access. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is intent on playing a role in changing this landscape. With our Safe Places to Play program, we continue to install, rehabilitate, and coordinate community access to soccer fields and courts across the country. Interested in supporting our efforts to create safe places to play? Donate now! Looking for support to create a safe place to play? Apply here!