4-H youth persuade peers to replace sugary drinks with water

The Issue

Children who are overweight can experience negative physical, emotional, social, intellectual and financial outcomes. They are at greater risk for diseases like diabetes and asthma, which can impact their quality of life. Emotionally, they are more apt to experience low self esteem and depression. Socially, they may have a harder time fitting in with peers and are more likely to be teased or bullied. And because research shows overweight children are less likely to go to college, their weight impacts intellectual and financial futures. With 30.5 percent of California children classified as overweight or obese, the University of California Cooperative Extension has made this public health issue a priority.

UCCE has identified 12 major risk factors for weight gain; one is consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The average American consumes about half a pound of sugar a day, and more than 30 percent of calories from added sugars are from sweetened beverages.

What Has ANR Done?

The Solano County Department of Health contacted 4-H to partner on a youth advocacy project to address this issue. 4-H youth members were trained about excess sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. The 10 middle school and high school 4-H'ers created a plan, which included educational and policy components.

The project started with building awareness in the 4-H community. They developed interactive educational activities to help participants calculate how much sugar was in their favorite beverages. In addition, the 4-Hers presented a skit to emphasize the importance of exercise and hydrating properly. At later meetings, they presented a sample healthy drink policy that said water is the best option for hydration and water must be provided as an option at all club meetings.

The Payoff

4-H increases access to healthy beverages

As a result of this youth-led advocacy effort, two 4-H clubs in Solano County passed a new healthy beverage policy. These 107 4-H members must now have access to water at meetings, providing a sugar- and calorie-free option. In addition, this work has been shared with the 4-H Statewide Healthy Living Leadership Team, and a similar statewide policy is being considered. 4-H is committed to the health of its youth, and continued application of the latest research to the program benefits all members.

Clientele Testimonial

Learning just how much sugar is in various drinks and understanding how to calculate the sugar content has made me really think about what I drink! ~ Rachel, 4-H Youth Advocate


Supporting Unit: Yolo County

Marcel Horowitz,mhorowitz@ucanr.edu,(530) 666-8722