Do nutrition education classes conducted in elementary schools by instructors trained in the principles of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) influence children to eat healthier foods? “Yes,” according to a study done by researchers from the University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension Center for Family Development.
Data from the study show that attending the nutrition education classes increased the children’s:
- Willingness to try new vegetables.
- Vegetable consumption immediately following the program — immediately following completion of classes.
- Fruit consumption in the long term — 6–10 months later, depending when classes were completed.
|Photo credit: Cory Ryan|
The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that people eligible to receive SNAP benefits will make healthy food choices within a limited budget and become more physically active in order to improve their health. As the “Go Wild” title indicates, the 2012-2013 classes focused on choosing to eat healthier foods — specifically more fruits and vegetables.
The team of FD researchers surveyed the students, as well as their parents and other primary caregivers, four times between October 2012 and October 2013. The goal was to evaluate the impact of SNAP-Ed programming on the children’s attitudes and behaviors regarding healthy eating in particular and other healthy habits in general.
Parents' and Caregivers' Responses — Two Themes
Information provided by parents and primary caregivers who responded to the surveys revealed two key themes:
- An increased propensity for children to try new foods after attending nutrition education classes.
- Positive “ripple effects” from the classes on other family members’ food and eating-related habits.
Children's Responses — Increased Fruit Consumption
Information provided by children responding to the surveys revealed two key findings:
- Children ate more fruits both immediately after taking classes and 6-10 months later.
- Children ate more vegetables immediately after taking the classes (but not in the long-term).
Despite the less encouraging findings on vegetables, the good news is that children did get excited about trying new vegetables at least for a short time following the “Go Wild” classes. The challenge now is to figure out ways to sustain that level of interest over the long term.
Questions or comments? Contact G. Ali Hurtado (firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-624-2709).
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