The health of California youth reflects this disturbing national trend. To address the challenge of childhood obesity statewide, the California 4-H Food Smart Families program will be implemented at four sites in Fresno, Orange, Sutter-Yuba and Tulare counties this year. Additional UC partners will include the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and CalFresh.
Youth need to increase consumption of dark green veggies and whole grains, and decrease intake of sugar and saturated fats. The objective of California 4-H Food Smart Families is to increase knowledge and create behavior change related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, physical activity and food preparation. The program engages youth 8 to 12 years old and teens in 4-H Healthy Living programming. Youth will be directly reached through lessons delivered at after-school sites, low-resource elementary schools and organized field days at four UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers (REC): Kearney REC in Parlier, South Coast REC in Irvine, Sierra Foothill REC in Browns Valley and Lindcove REC in Exeter. The program is structured around positive youth development curricula and practices which provide an intensive engagement of underserved children, teens, families and other stakeholders. Local 4-H teens will be recruited and trained to deliver programs and assume leadership roles.
The National 4-H Council partnered with the ConAgra Food Foundation to launch the national 4-H Food Smart Families program in 2014. ConAgra sponsored funding to award grants to five states for program implementation. This year, in addition to the original five states, California and Louisiana were awarded grants as new participants. Inclusion of the UC Research and Extension Centers in the California program is a new model that organizers hope will be replicated elsewhere. Youth and families who visit the centers will witness first-hand not only how food is grown, but also the science behind it. Center specific lessons may be added to highlight the unique nature of local agriculture and natural resources and the food crops cultivated and studied at each center.
Programming at California sites will get underway this fall and will continue through the school year. Look for more exciting California 4-H Food Smart Families news in the coming months as programming and activities kick into high gear.
Author: Roberta Barton