Olivia Leonard of the CrossFit Foundation sat down with Box Pro Magazine to chat about what the CrossFit Foundation is, what they are looking to accomplish and what it means for the Affiliate owner:
OL: The CrossFit Foundation supports the work of CrossFit, Inc. and the 14,000 CrossFit Affiliates through two programs: the CrossFit Community Fund, and the CrossFit Sports and Health Sciences Institute.
Through the Community Fund, we give out small need-based grants to charities that often emerge from the Affiliate community, from groups that fight cancer to non-profit Affiliates providing after-school CrossFit Kids programs. The Sports and Health Sciences Institute works along with CrossFit’s government relations arm to support accurate health science free from industry influence and corresponding education and policy interventions. We work to defend the public, and especially the Affiliate community, by countering the corrupt scientific and regulatory norms that have led to the chronic disease crisis.
Both of our two main programs support our overarching mission: to improve health and fitness and combat chronic disease.
OL: Kids aren’t immune from the chronic disease epidemic. Rates of Type 2 diabetes and obesity — even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — continue to rise among teens and pre-teens. Despite this, many schools are still cutting their physical education budgets and serving sugary drinks in the cafeteria. But some school districts are turning to CrossFit as a way to get kids active and combat chronic disease in these young populations. Clark County School District in Nevada, for example, has hundreds of students in CrossFit classes at dozens of schools in the district. I was just at Sunny Sands Elementary in Palm Springs, California, for an International Quit Soda Day event — they have an awesome CrossFit program for their students, even the small ones.
The CrossFit Foundation is committed to supporting school districts, teachers and parents who want to bring CrossFit to their kids but may lack the necessary resources. This year, we’re starting to fund these programs through small grants to cover training for Coaches and equipment for after-school classes. In Tacoma, Washington, the first program we’ve funded started its CrossFit classes the week of November 6. It’s one of the initiatives I’m most excited about: providing these opportunities to children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate, giving them that education and experience that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives — take back to their families, in some instances.
OL: CrossFit has always modeled an alternative way of doing things — not just in regards to working out, but also an alternative way to eat, to run a business, to think about the world. Within the CrossFit Foundation, we work out of that fundamental premise that many of the systems we live with and in are broken, that the things we’ve been told about health, nutrition and fitness are wrong. This is especially true in our healthcare system and the way we’ve been taught to think about nutrition and health for the past few decades. Through our work in health policy and academia, the Sports and Health Sciences Institute — a program of the CrossFit Foundation — supports an alternative perspective based on accurate, independent scientific inquiry and also the successful experiences of the CrossFit Affiliate community, which changes lives and champions health every day.
Our summer 2017 academic nutrition conference on diet and metabolic health, for example, both provided additional educational resources to the Affiliates and also gave us the opportunity to engage in the broader nutrition debate with a world-class group of scientists. As for policy, nutrition licensure is an upcoming area of focus for CrossFit and the CrossFit Foundation — who gets to decide what nutritional advice is legal and who can provide it? Should an Affiliate be limited in what diet they can recommend to a client? Who sets those standards and influences that policy? We’ve also worked extensively to reform conflict of interest policy at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to curb the toxic influence of the food and beverage industry.
Health, fitness and nutrition policy has a tremendous impact on both public health and on the freedom of the Affiliates to provide their clients with the information and training they need, and the CrossFit Foundation is committed to operating effectively in that space. I think you’ll see a lot more from us in this area in the years to come.