WSU pilots effort to help families eat healthy on a budget

4-H-logo-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Studies show 16.2 million U.S. children live in households that lack the means to get nutritious food on a regular basis. Washington State University Extension 4-H has received $150,000 to engage 2,500 youth and families in 13 counties in the 4-H Food Smart Families program.

Washington is one of five states selected for a pilot program by the National 4-H Council and ConAgra Foods Foundation. A ConAgra gift will fund the initiative.

During the first year, the council will evaluate the program and later replicate it to reach youth and families nationwide. It will ultimately equip families with healthy living skills and education that will translate into lasting behavior changes.

The effort will build on the Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!) program piloted in 2013 through WSU Extension. YA4-H! trains teens as teachers and advocates for health. They will work in partnership with adult leaders to develop county teams to teach nutrition, cooking, budgeting and active living skills to younger youth within their communities.

One in every three children is overweight or obese. And children from low-income and low-education households are three times more likely to be obese. The 4-H Food Smart Families program will help families make healthy lifestyle decisions beginning at the point of their grocery shopping experience and continuing to meal preparation in their kitchens.

According to a recent Tufts University study, researchers found that 4-H youth are more likely to have healthy eating and exercise habits. They are also three times more likely to actively contribute to their communities than that of their non-4-H peers.

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Shirley Calodich, WSU Extension health promotion, 360-385-0843,
Mary Katherine Deen, WSU Extension 4-H, 509-682-6956,