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4-H Teens Become Role Models for Healthy Living

The Issue

The poor health status for Bay Point youth and families is a result of multiple risk factors: unhealthy weight; sedentary behaviors; limited access to affordable, healthy food; poverty; substance abuse; crime; and poor school performance. Thirty-six percent of students are at an unhealthy weight. Of the nineteen teens that attend Gateway Continuation High School, 63% identify as Latino, and 90% are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Engaging at-risk teens in an after school healthy living program can empower them to improve their health status.

What Has ANR Done?

During 2014-2016, Contra Costa County’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program used positive youth development practices, youth-adult partnerships, and evidence-based curriculum to provide teens with healthy-living programming, leadership, and service-learning opportunities. Each school year, teens were recruited to participate in a semester-long culinary program to develop leadership, public speaking, and culinary skills while gaining nutrition knowledge and an appreciation for healthy food. The sessions featured recipes from different cultures, and the teens worked in teams to prepare and present the dishes to each other. During the second semester, the teens continued to meet twice a week to prepare healthy snacks, and they were trained to effectively deliver a six lesson nutrition series to third-grade students at a nearby school.

The Payoff

Teens gain valuable life skills and teach children about a healthy lifestyle

The interactive design of the culinary sessions and the Teens as Teachers project kept the teens engaged in the program. They learned valuable life skills and were able to articulate the impact of the program on their life and the value of sharing what they learned with their friends, families, and the third graders. A semi-structured interview captured the teens’ thoughts on working with children, setting goals for long-term health, and being a role model for healthy living. They reported positive changes in their eating habits and their school attendance and performance. The teens shared how they learned about cooking healthy food and how the program kept them busy and out of trouble after school. The CYFAR program helped the teens to become positive role models for healthy living.

Clientele Testimonial

Participants’ thoughts on working with children: “It’s a fun experience. You get to give them that healthy tip that you didn’t get when you were young. We didn’t have that at all when I was in elementary school. It’s kinda like getting them prepared [for] what’s coming if you don’t make healthy choices.”
Setting goals for long-term health: “One goal was to learn more about a healthy lifestyle and I did. And to learn more stuff about vegetables— what they can do for your body and everything."
Participants’ thoughts on being a role model for healthy living: “I actually changed a lot. I started behaving better in class and everything. I don’t know, just, being with little kids made me grow up. I had to be a role model for them."


Supporting Unit: Contra Costa County

and Youth, Families, and Communities Statewide Program
Marisa Neelon, NFCS Advisor, 925-646-6128, mqneelon@ucanr.edu