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Project 4-H2O Provides Free Zero Calorie Education and Option at Sugartown Festival

The Issue

In Contra Costa County, the 2016 California Healthy Kids Survey found that only one out of four teens, ages 12-17, drank eight or more glasses of water the previous day. The same survey found that two out of three (62%) of teens drank two or more sodas the previous day - two times more teens than the national rate of 30%.

Studies have found that Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) consumption is linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, tooth decay, and type 2 diabetes. Each 12 ounce soda contains the equivalent of eight teaspoons of added sugar, 130 calories, and zero nutrients. The American Heart Association recommends that children and teens limit added sugars to less than six teaspoons a day. Substituting zero calorie water for SSBs can help reduce added sugars, calories, and weight gain, ultimately reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases. Education and awareness are keys to helping individuals make informed choices. The annual Sugartown Festival in Crockett, CA is the largest community festival in the city drawing about 7,500 participants and provides an excellent opportunity to increase awareness.

What Has ANR Done?

Using the proven “teens as teachers” model, Contra Costa County 4-H and Nutrition Family and Consumer Science (NFCS) programs created Project 4-H2O - a 4-H afterschool program involving 6 teen leaders from John Swett High School (JSHS). Targeting the Surgartown Festival, teens partnered with UC ANR staff to raise awareness and educate their Crockett community on the importance of drinking zero calorie water. They engaged festival participants using interactive “spin the wheel” and “which water station would you drink from” activities as well as displayed graphics, charts, and other messaging.

In addition, drawing on proven 4-H experiential learning models, UC ANR staff collaborated with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to bring their “Water on Wheels” tank, providing on-site FREE tap water. This resulted in a powerful educational outreach with a “teens as teachers” component plus an experiential education experience for participants as they were able to drink zero calorie water onsite to stay hydrated.

The Payoff

Student leaders successfully shared the benefits of zero calorie water

At the end of the day, EBMUD staff notified us that 120 gallons of water was consumed, equal to 1,920 eight ounce cups of water! Using the Sugartown festival attendance estimate of 7,500, this could mean that 1 out of 4 attendees drank the water and received Project 4-H2O messaging and education from teens and staff.

This Project 4H2O event was part of a larger effort to reduce consumption of SSBs, and increase water consumption to improve community health and wellness. Past project activities included sharing student research on water access, appeal, and consumption with JSHS students, staff, and the school board to increase awareness of the need for healthy hydration options throughout the school and to promote drinking zero calorie water over SSBs. Future activities will focus on messaging and peer education promoting water as the beverage of choice and marketing the additional water stations as they are installed as part of the school renovation. We thank UC CALFRESH and 4-H for the continued support of this program.


Charles Go, 4-H Youth Development Advisor - Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, cggo@ucanr.edu
Marisa Neelon, NFCS Advisor - Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, mqneelon@ucanr.edu