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EFNEP addresses childhood obesity through collaboration

The Issue

Obesity in childhood increases a child’s risk of developing chronic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as social and psychological problems. Hayward, California, has the highest prevalence of overweight children in Alameda County’s 14 cities, and 50 percent of Hayward Unified School District’s students are overweight or obese. School-based education about healthy eating and fitness habits is a valuable tool to address this issue, but the school district lacked resources and staff needed to implement an evidence-based nutrition education program.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2016, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) partnered with Hayward Unified School District’s ‘Viva Bien, Coma Bien, Siéntase Bien’ (VCS!) AmeriCorps program as part of a three-year collaboration to provide nutrition education training and curriculum materials for the VCS! after school staff. Thirty VCS! staff attended four trainings focused on grade-level-appropriate EFNEP nutrition curriculum and evaluation surveys. After VCS! staff were familiar with the lessons and evaluation protocol, they delivered six nutrition lessons to 1,400 students at 20 elementary schools in the Hayward Unified after school program. Lessons were enhanced with Family Nights, food tastings, and physical activities. Students completed a pre and post evaluation to track changes in behavior and nutrition knowledge.

The Payoff

Students improve their food and fitness behaviors

VCS! staff collected evaluations from 823 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The data showed that 72 percent of students improved skills in choosing foods consistent with Federal Dietary Guidelines; 33 percent improved their physical activity behaviors, and 47 percent improved their food safety practices. Additionally, through the training they received, VCS! staff became more knowledgeable about nutrition and reported food and fitness related behavior changes in their own lives. This collaboration provided much needed training and resources to the Hayward Unified School District’s VCS! AmeriCorps Program to address their mission of improving student health, as well as an opportunity for EFNEP to expand its capacity to reach additional high-need youth.

Clientele Testimonial

“They eat more fruits and veggies at lunch. They would also count how many food groups they would have in their lunch and the person with the most would win.” -Angeles N., AmeriCorps staff

“Many of my students have started to actually eat the vegetable that goes along with their supper. At the beginning of the year they would either throw away the vegetable or put it on the cart for other kids to take it.” -Jennifer F., AmeriCorps staff


Supporting Unit: Alameda County

Leah Sourbeer, EFNEP Program Supervisor, ljelmazati@ucanr.edu
Marisa Neelon, NFCS Advisor, mqneelon@ucanr.edu