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UCCE collaboration enhances students’ nutrition education experience

The Issue

Poor food selection and inactivity contribute to the increase in childhood obesity rates and risk for chronic disease. Empowering school-age children to adopt a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and fitness education can help reverse this alarming trend. Schools are an ideal place for this education, but due to academic mandates it is often difficult to motivate educators to teach nutrition and fitness lessons. Teachers need something fun and creative to entice them to incorporate nutrition into their lesson plans.

What Has ANR Done?

Over the past five years, students, teachers and chaperones from low-income Contra Costa County schools participated in a fun and active day of learning about nutrition, agriculture and fitness. The goal is to reinforce nutrition concepts taught earlier in the year and to model healthy food and physical activity habits. This event began in 2003 as a collaborative project of the UC Cooperative Extension youth nutrition program, the local food bank, the county fair Ag Museum educational program and the Pittsburg Unified School District Food Services Department. Several other organizations provided volunteers. During the 2008 Day of Nutrition & Physical Activity, 257 fourth-grade students and 9 teachers rotated through eight interactive learning stations:
  • Eating the Rainbow: taste colorful fruits and vegetables while learning about their nutrients
  • Physical Activity Challenge: experience an aerobic routine including warm up and cool down
  • Garden Exploration with UCCE Master Gardeners: savor produce while learning about edible plant parts
  • Ag Discovery: grind wheat into flour and explore historic farm equipment
  • Go for the Whole Grain: race to add fruit to cereal after reviewing the importance of a healthy breakfast
  • Calcium Search & Rescue: conquer a label reading game to collect high calcium foods that lead to bone health
  • Rethink Your Drink: discover the sugar content in popular beverages and ideas for healthier alternatives
  • MyPyramid Grab & Go Game: race to collect a food from a variety of choices representing each food group
The busy morning ended with a healthy lunch provided by the district food services department.

The Payoff

Students are more aware of healthy nutrition and physical activity habits

Teachers, students and adult chaperones experienced healthy food and physical activity behaviors and gained a greater appreciation for where there food comes from. All teachers reported that the event will have an impact on their students’ nutrition and physical activity habits. Additionally, teachers were motivated to deliver more nutrition education than the required minimum and they were interested in continuing their participation in the program. After the session, a teacher said the students "are already expressing changes in their eating habits."

Clientele Testimonial

"We loved all the exercising mixed with all that knowledge." - A teacher participant

"That was the first time I tasted peas. It was so delicious!” and "I really enjoyed the gardening especially when we gathered strawberries and when we planted the zucchini." - Two students


Supporting Unit:

UCCE Contra Costa County Nutrition Program
Marisa Neelon, mqneelon@ucdavis.edu, (925) 646-6128