Walmart Grant Funds Expansion of 4-H Youth Health Programs
Michigan 4-H was one of 26 states in 2015-16 to receive a grant from National 4-H Council, funded by the Walmart Foundation. The Youth Voice: Youth Choice grant enabled youth to implement action plans for nutrition, physical fitness and safety in 10 counties across the state.
Mini grants were awarded to Genesee, Kent, Lake, Macomb, Mason, Muskegon, Oakland, Ottawa, Saginaw and Wayne counties to offer the Youth Voice: Youth Choice healthy living program in their communities. The program targeted underserved minorities in addition to youth and families from a variety of social and economic backgrounds and first-generation 4-H’ers.
“A small number of these families were already in 4-H; the majority of the others were recruited to participate in the fun and exciting new fitness and nutrition programs planned by counties with mini grants,” said Kea Norrell-Aitch, MSU Extension 4-H educator for healthy living.
“I was pretty proud of this program,” Norell-Aitch said. “Some counties partnered with SNAP-Ed [Supplemental Nutrition Education Program, a federal program providing evidence-based nutrition education], master gardeners and after-school programs. Others created new partnerships in schools and shelters. This grant really helped open new doors to new 4-H partnerships and audiences.”
As a result of this grant, several new statewide 4-H healthy living opportunities were created, including Challenge U, a two-day overnight food science and healthy living camp at Kettunen Center; the Healthy Living and Food Science day-long camp on MSU’s campus where youth explored career options in various departments such as dairy and kinesiology; and Bigley 4-H Clear Lake Camp, a five-day 4-H camp in the Upper Peninsula that offered hands-on fitness and nutrition education. In addition, the 4-H Mentoring Weekend – a weekend camp at Kettunen Center for 4-H mentors and mentees – had a healthy living theme. 4-H Healthy Living Teen Ambassadors also taught three sessions at 4-H Exploration Days focused on healthy living topics.
“Out of this grant also came 4-H F3rd – which stands for ‘family, fitness and fun’,” Norell-Aitch said. “Every third Saturday of the month, we go to a county to facilitate a family fitness program. It is very beneficial to incorporate the whole family. Kids don’t have
power over the food purchased – we have to start with the parents to talk about changes and healthy food options.”
4-H F3rd includes a fitness challenge – typically an obstacle course – and a smoothie challenge for the food component.
“Participants select their smoothie ingredients, and then judges pick which smoothie tastes the best,” she said. “It’s competitive, too, which makes it fun! Sometimes we offer a dance or sports challenge using a Wii video game.”
To implement the program in their local communities, 40 teens, representing each county above were trained as 4-H Healthy Living Teen Ambassadors.
County 4-H staff members developed innovative healthy living programs, camps and community gardens centered on nutrition and physical fitness. There was also a gardening component for youth to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and include them in daily meals.
Muskegon County 4-H partnered with two groups, creating new partnerships for 4-H healthy living program delivery. Growing Goods is a summer youth program hosted by Muskegon Public Schools for youth who failed a class in school to make up class credits.
“The six-week program focused on gardening and healthy eating,” said Katie Courtade, Muskegon County MSU Extension 4-H program coordinator. “We taught a variety of classes raging from how food travels from farm to the plate and what plants need
to grow, to eating the colors and healthy food choices. We even made homemade salsa!”
“Muskegon does have a pretty high obesity rate and any way that we can help the youth is great. Just teaching kids how to eat right helps!” she said.
Courtade also partnered with Community Acting Towards Children’s Health (CATCH) Camp in Muskegon where 4-H staff taught the importance of physical activity and eating healthy.
“We taught the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables, and had an obstacle course,” she said. “They just loved it!
“This grant helped make connections with partners in the community,” Courtade said. “We are going to continue with the grant. I am hoping to make new connections next year!”