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Youth Engagement Increases Nutrition Knowledge in Elementary School Students!

The Issue

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem across the United States. In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control reported that obesity affects one in six children and adolescents in the United States. Multi-faceted interventions have been suggested as one method for addressing the challenge of childhood obesity.

What Has ANR Done?

The Center for Nutrition in Schools (CNS) and the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program partnered with the Sierra Foothill 4-H Food Smart Families program to implement the Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP) at after-school program sites in Sutter and Yuba Counties throughout the 2015-2016 school year. The Food Smart Families program targets families eligible for or receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education or Women Infants and Children benefits, and teaches them how to plan, shop, and prepare healthy meals on a budget.

The SHCP is a comprehensive, multicomponent, school-based intervention that was developed to improve children’s health. The Food Smart Families program utilized a youth engagement extender model to implement ten lessons from the SHCP curricula throughout the school year. Specifically, local 4-H teens were recruited and trained to assume leadership roles and facilitate the program using the “4-H Teens as Teachers” method. They led multiple after-school programs in the Marysville and Yuba City Unified School Districts. The SHCP learner-centered curricula includes both Discovering Healthy Choices, which is a garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum and Cooking up Healthy Choices, which highlights seasonal produce and allows students to experience cooking demonstrations using all five of their senses.

The Payoff

4-H Teens as Teachers program contributes to youth making healthier dietary choices!

This partnership between the CNS, UC CalFresh, and the 4-H Food Smart Families Program provided the opportunity for collaboration between the three programs, as well as the opportunity for teens to exercise leadership skills through youth-adult partnerships (YAP). 4-H Extension Educators led three YAP sessions for teen instructors where they learned how to work together in the classroom so students would benefit the most from this program. The teens also received two additional days of training that focused on curricula delivery, inquiry-based teaching methods, and classroom management techniques.

After participating in ten lessons, 91% of students reported that they learned how to make healthy food choices, 87% of students indicated that they eat more fruits and vegetables, and 66% of students reported that they eat less junk food. The percentage of students that said they choose healthy snacks most days or every day also increased by 14%.

Clientele Testimonial

“As a result of participating in this program, the students’ nutrition knowledge really increased. They tried new vegetables and some even asked for more. It was really neat to see!” A Community Education Specialist


Supporting Unit:

Department of Nutrition, UC Davis and UCCE Butte County Cluster
Chelsey L. Slattery,cslattery@ucdavis.edu 530-752-3387; Daniela James, danielaregele@hotmail.com; Rachel E. Scherr, rescherr@ucdavis.edu; 530-752-3817