HEALTHY LIVING FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: 4-H FOOD SMART FAMILIES

Situation: Child hunger is a critical issue, nationally and locally. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 15.8 million children are experiencing hunger. Of the 102,665 youth between the ages of 5-19 years, 45.6% (29,592) of Seminole County youth are receiving Free or Reduced Lunch and (15.7%) 16,145 Seminole County youth under the age of 18 are considered to be in poverty (2014, Seminole County Kids Count Data). The objective of the United Healthcare 4-H Food Smart Families Program in Seminole County was for 70% of youth (8-12 years) to increase their understanding of preparing healthy meals at home while utilizing critical thinking skills when making food selections at the grocery store. Methods: The program consisted of: 1) educating families on the importance of nutrition, food preparation and budgeting skills and 2) equipping families with nutrition assistance resources in their local community. In 2016, the program was delivered to 118 youth through a series of (4) two hour lessons emphasizing understanding nutrition labels, consuming whole grains and fresh produce, incorporating daily physical activity, etc. Upon completion of the program, youth participated in a mock grocery store experience to demonstrate choosing healthy foods for a meal on a budget. Additionally, families received food preparation tools and gift cards to implement healthy meal preparation at home. Results: Upon completion: 89% (106/118) of youth self-reported a desire to prepare more healthy meals at home vs. fast food and demonstrated an understanding of how to use the “My Plate Model” for meal preparation while, 72% (85/118) indicated they planned to be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day. Conclusion: Program participants have demonstrated a propensity and understanding in choosing healthier meal options, preparing more meals at home and incorporating daily physical activity.