Hero Image

4-H’ers drink water first for thirst!

The Issue

Childhood obesity is a major concern for University of California scientists, for families, and for the affected individuals themselves. Children who are overweight have an increased risk of developing diabetes, which has a lasting impact on the quality of life for those affected. Research shows that increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the most significant contributing factors to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. By aligning with the national Drink Up campaign and making water the primary beverage for youth to drink, we can help create healthier families and communities.

In addition, a major goal of the 4-H Program is to promote healthy living. “Health” is one of our 4 “H”s. The health and safety of members is a priority at all 4-H activities and events. Drinking water is crucial for good health: among other things, it helps prevent dehydration and heat illness and provides a healthy beverage alternative for those already struggling with diabetes or food allergies. Having drinking water available at all 4-H activities ensures that all members have a healthy beverage choice. The environment in which youth work and play is a key contributor to the development of their perceptions, attitudes and habits. The 4-H drinking water policy is consistent with existing obesity research and the UC Nutrition Policy Institute’s recommendation to add drinking water to the USDA MyPlate guidelines.

What Has ANR Done?

This program year, California 4-H has adopted an amendment to the 4-H Policy Handbook requiring that (1) drinkable water, without anything added, must be available at all 4-H meetings, activities, and events, and (2) 4-H fundraisers that include the sale of beverages must include water as an option. To promote this policy change and encourage the consumption of water, a statewide water campaign was created to provide 4-H programmatic support at the county level. Among other elements, the educational and promotional material included: the California 4-H Water for Better Living! webpage (http://4h.ucanr.edu/Projects/HealthyLiving/Water_For_Better_Living/); a video on the importance of drinking water; an activity that leads youth in a discussion of why they drink water; #4HWaterWed, a hashtag designed to encourage 4-H youth to share pictures of themselves drinking water; and water bottles distributed at State Field Day.

The Payoff

Water must be available to drink in 4-H.

California 4-H reaches about 209 thousand youth through programs and activities each year. By ensuring that drinking water is available at all 4-H events we are creating healthier environments, and thus healthier 4-H youth and volunteers. The 4-H club beverage practices are currently being evaluated to measure the impact of the policy on consumption behavior and water availability.

Clientele Testimonial

"Implementing the policy brought to the forefront the importance of water consumption and overall healthy living." - Elizabeth Villalobos, 4-H Program Coordinator


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families & Communities - 4-H

Anne M Iaccopucci, Academic Coordinator, amiaccopucci@ucanr.edu
Marcel Horowitz, Advisor, mhorowitz@ucanr.edu
Dorina Espinoza, Advisor, dmespinoza@ucdavis.edu