4-H, EFNEP combine exercise with healthy habits at youth programs

August 1, 2013 in Family and Consumer Sciences, Feature

upforthechallengeAs the result of a $2 million donation from the Walmart Foundation to expand the Walmart 4-H Youth Voice: Youth Choice program in Delaware and 20 other states, 4-H and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Cooperative Extension personnel and volunteers have teamed up to prove that they are “Up for the Challenge” when it comes to teaching healthy living habits to young Delawareans.

In Delaware, 3,000 youths will receive six hours of the Up for the Challenge: Lifetime Fitness, Healthy Decision curriculum delivered by Cooperative Extension staff and a cadre of teenagers. They have been trained to deliver the curriculum in afterschool programs, community centers, 4-H clubs and other sites.

The program, geared toward young people ages 8-12, will be implemented at all Delaware 4-H afterschool sites, including the seven Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) sites, all of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and EFNEP sites and Dover Air Force Base sites. These sites reach 2,000-plus youths.

Delaware has had a strong nutritional education presence through 4-H, EFNEP and SNAP-Ed but one of the things that makes Up for the Challenge unique is that it will be taught by both adult instructors and teen educators.

Sue Snider, coordinator of EFNEP, Cooperative Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of animal and food sciences in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said of the program, “EFNEP nutrition assistants have conducted hands-on educational programs for low-income youth for years. What makes this summer’s classes awesome and special are the teens.”

“This particular topic is awesome because it’s the nutrition and the fitness,” said Karen Johnston, a UD Cooperative Extension agent of Up for the Challenge. “We’ve been doing a great job of using youth and adult educators in tobacco drug and alcohol prevention — we’ve done that throughout the state for a few years now and reached thousands of people. This is nice because now we have the nutrition and the fitness components, so that’s a really great collaboration.”

At Kirk Middle School in Newark, Del. — one of the New Castle County locations where the Up for the Challenge curriculum was being taught — EFNEP nutrition assistant Carmella Johnson was teaching participants about grains while also taking time to inform them about yoga. “It’s healthy eating incorporated with exercise,” said Johnson. “It’s a mixture of both throughout the day.”

Johnson said that the young people are taught about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, which is the new food pyramid, while also learning about things like portion control and reading labels on foods and drinks that they consume.

“A lot of them don’t really think about soda and sugary drinks as being calories,” said Johnson. “They’re drinking a lot of calories but they don’t see that, so we talked about reading labels. If you start reading your labels, you’ll see how many calories you drink and they do add up.”

Johnson added, “Many children just don’t know all the aspects of good nutrition or food preparation and that’s what’s nice about Up for the Challenge — it’s very hands on so the young person has an opportunity to not just learn the plate but also they actually make food in the class.”

Snider said that a 2011 Youth Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 43 percent of Delaware youth reported that they did not get 60 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week.

Johnston added that having instructors who are closer in age to the children — who teach the classes in conjunction with the adult instructors — helps the young people get excited about learning about healthy living practices. “That’s just so pivotal, having that experiential learning, and it’s memorable,” she said. “The kids are really responding to the youth presence as well as the adult presence in this hands-on activity.”

To learn more about Up for the Challenge, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.