June 29, 2016
Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska was one of seven states across the nation that recently participated in the 4-H Food Smart Families program sponsored by the National 4-H Council and the ConAgra Foods Foundation. The 4-H Food Smart Families program equipped youth and their families to make healthy living part of their everyday lives through nutrition education, cooking skills and food budgeting skills. The program was implemented between March 2015 and May 2016.
Twelve Nebraska Extension offices across the state reached over 3,000 youth through the 4-H Food Smart Families program. In addition to learning about healthy living, the program provided grocery bags for youth participants with ingredients for healthy recipe preparation at home. As part of the program, 2,634 grocery bags were distributed.
Youth and families also engaged in the 4-H Food Smart Families program at over 80 family and community engagement events. A favorite activity at the events was blender bikes, which helped youth create their own healthy smoothies through exercise. The specially made stationary bikes are equipped with a blender that operates and makes smoothies when the pedals are moving.
“The Food Smart Families program was an important program for reaching both youth and their families with ideas for healthful eating and physical activity choices,” said Linda Boeckner, program leader with Nebraska Extension. Youth were able to be engaged in a fun learning environment, and to showcase their new skills to their family members at the family and community engagement events.”
The 4-H Food Smart Families program also incorporated the effective 4-H “Teens as Teachers” model – leveraging the proven influence of young people by engaging teens to empower youth and families. In Nebraska, 20 teen teachers participated in the program. Nebraska Extension faculty and staff with expertise in youth development and nutrition education worked collaboratively with the teen teachers to deliver the program.
Positive changes in eating habits, activity levels and behavior were seen from youth participating in 4-H Food Smart Families. As a result of participating in the program, 93 percent of youth indicated they learned how to make healthy food choices, 87 percent indicated they learned cooking skills and 87 percent indicated their family has purchased healthier food.
Youth participants showed excitement in learning about nutrition and cooking.
“I’ve learned that exercising can be really fun, and that making tasty and healthy foods is also fun,” said one participant.
Along with Nebraska, other states participating in the program were California, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana and Washington.