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UNCE nutrition and exercise program awarded 100,000.00 grant

Posted 2/2/2009

All 4 Kids helps lower-income family eat better and stay active

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) has been awarded a 100,000.00 grant for an in-depth study of the promising "All 4 Kids" nutrition and physical activity program.

The "All 4 Kids: Healthy, Happy Active, Fit" program, which focuses on lower-income preschoolers in Clark County, was one of only four programs nationwide to be selected as a demonstration project in the Models of Food Stamp Nutrition Education and Evaluation Study grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

"The early results of the All 4 Kids program have been very encouraging, so this will allow us to do a more in-depth examination of the program," UNCE Early Care and Education Specialist Teresa Byington said.

Byington works on the program with UNCE Exercise Physiologist Specialist Anne Lindsay and Maternal Child Nutrition Specialist Madeleine Sigman-Grant.

Hundreds of educational programs have been initiated across the country in recent years as the federal government attempted to get food stamp recipients to use their benefits to purchase healthier foods. Last year the USDA changed the name of the Food Stamp Program to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-ED) to reflect its goal of helping recipients eat better and have a healthier lifestyle.

All 4 Kids was launched in 2007. Extension educators go into child care centers reaching lower income families twice a week for 30 minutes at a time and teach a curriculum to 3- to 5-year-olds and their teachers. Parents attend family activity nights three times during the course of the program and preschool teachers learn ways to extend the All 4 Kids information into their daily curriculum during training sessions throughout the program.

The All 4 Kids curriculum encourages children to eat fruits and vegetables every day and to choose healthy snacks. Children learn to eat when they are hungry and to stop when they are full, and they learn how physical activity will keep their hearts, muscles and bones strong. A backpack is sent home once a week with activities the child can share with the rest of the family, such as the "TV Moves Me" coloring book, which encourages families to move together during television commercials, and the "Healthy Snack Hunt" game, which teaches children and their parents healthy snacks are affordable and tasty. During family activity nights, which are held at the child care centers, the parents and children try new foods and dance together.

Studies show more children are becoming overweight and the obesity rate among children from lower-income families is almost double that of the rest of population. The issue is particularly serious in Nevada, where other studies show the consumption of fruits and vegetables is declining.

In some cases, the issue is more serious than obesity: One study conducted three years ago concluded that inadequate and inappropriate food consumption can retard growth, cognitive development, learning and the immune system. Many food habits and taste preferences are shaped during a child’s preschool years, experts say.

Byington says early results show that All 4 Kids significantly increases the fruit and vegetable consumption of children as well as their daily physical activity. For instance, the percentage of children consuming fresh fruit at least three times a week increased from 83 percent at the beginning of the program to nearly 92 percent at the end of the program, and the percentage consuming fresh vegetables jumped from 62 percent to 92 percent.

The in-depth study, scheduled to start in March 2010, will evaluate the fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity and energy expenditures of more than 200 3- to 5-year-olds in Head Start classrooms in the most densely populated areas of Food Stamp recipients in southern Nevada. The results will be compared to a control group that will not receive the program.

"It is our intent to demonstrate that the All 4 Kids program can significantly increase the fruit and vegetable consumption and daily physical activity of preschoolers," Byington said. "The All 4 Kids program incorporates an integrated approach to nutrition education by targeting preschool children, their primary caregivers and their preschool teachers, and this research project will give us the opportunity to do an in-depth study on the impact of our program."

For more information on the All 4 Kids program, contact Tara Spann, All 4 Kids Program Officer, at 702-257-5593, or e-mail spannt@unce.unr.edu .

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is an outreach arm of the University that extends unbiased, research-based knowledge from the University-and other land-grant universitie-to local communities. Educational programs are developed based on local needs, sometimes in partnership with other agencies and volunteers. For more information about University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, please visit the website at www.unce.unr.edu or call (702) 222-3130.

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