K-State researchers investigate nutrition curriculums
By Rachel Potucek
Sixty percent of the average American's health care costs are related to personal behavior, according to Carol Fink of the Kansas State University Extension Family Nutrition Program and 4-H youth development associate.
Fink said exercise and a healthy diet can delay the onset of diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and ultimately help us live longer and reduce behavior-related medical bills down the road. But it is tough to change diet and exercise routines, Fink said.
"Nutrition and exercise habits can be set by a person's teen years," she said. "We all know how hard it is to change our habits. It is easier to get off to the right start."
That's why Fink and other K-State researchers are collaborating to make sure a new national nutrition program is teaching third, fourth, and fifth-graders healthy eating habits.
Fink is involved in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project which will evaluate the new nutrition program "Health and Nutrition from the Garden," for low-income children. The national program, which is used in schools or by after-school programs, has been in operation in Kansas for two years now. The collaborative project's results will be shared with Kansas' Social and Rehabilitative Services, the Family Nutrition Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Fink said "Health and Nutrition" has a unique curriculum that uses hands-on learning, otherwise known as experiential learning. Kids learn to change their eating habits by watching the instructor and acting on their own. For instance, kids learn how to make healthy snacks and how to grow a garden.
K-State horticulture associate professor Candice Shoemaker is helping to write the program evaluating "Health and Nutrition from the Garden." She said "Health and Nutrition" may be more effective than other Kansas nutrition programs because "gardening is more fun and we already know that children are more likely to try what they have grown."
Shoemaker said K-State researchers involved with the project will measure student's knowledge about nutrition and gardening, their fruit and vegetable preferences and their fruit and vegetable consumption before and after students participate in "Health and Nutrition from the Garden." This fall, Shoemaker will use the same test on students who use a popular nutrition curriculum called "Professor Popcorn." She will compare the results to see if there are differences in the outcomes for each of the nutrition education programs.
Karen Hudson, coordinator of the Family Nutrition Program, said the results will be shared with national and regional partners through the program.