As many Virginia schools face budget cuts and struggle to support healthy living programs, Virginia Cooperative Extension is working to bridge the gap in nutrition education. The Nutrition Education Grant, provided by the National 4-H Council and funded by the Walmart Foundation, provides healthy living training, equipment, workbooks, and other resources across the state.
“Virginia 4-H and the Family Nutrition Program are grateful for the support of the National 4-H Council and the Walmart Foundation for providing funding to support these healthy living initiatives. Working together, we can educate today’s youth in making healthy lifestyle decisions that carry them into adulthood,” said Tonya Price, 4-H extension specialist.
The grant supports several VCE programs, including Teen Cuisine, which reached over 10,000 students last year in public schools, after-school programs, and 4-H camps and clubs. Teen Cuisine is a cooking program that encourages healthy eating habits. The six-lesson curriculum for middle school and high school students instructs leaders in teaching girls and boys how to prepare healthy snacks, meals, and beverages while also helping the teens increase their knowledge of nutrition and health. Of the kids who have completed the Teen Cuisine program, 91 percent reported that they learned how to make healthy food choices, and 73 percent said they cook more at home.
The grant also supports the 4-H Food Challenge competition. Similar to the popular Food Network show “Chopped,” teams of three to five youth are given 40 minutes, a basket of mystery ingredients, and access to a pantry of food. The team must then prepare a dish, compute the cost per serving, and develop a presentation on the dish and its nutritional content. Competitors learn independence in the kitchen, teamwork, and hands-on nutrition.
This year, funds will also support a statewide training to implement a new program called Yoga for Kids. Yoga for Kids allows participants to increase fitness, decrease stress, and improve mental focus in a noncompetitive, fun environment.
These programs are carried out through the combined efforts of 4-H professionals and Family Nutrition Program assistants across the state. Through their efforts, and with funding provided by the Walmart Foundation, the grant is able to reach a greater number of students every year. This year, Virginia 4-H received $81,000 for its healthy living programming. In the past, the grant has been between $33,000 and $55,000. This year’s jump in funding is credited to Virginia’s huge success in past years.
4-H cultivates confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for the world of tomorrow. Young people who have benefited from 4-H programming are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, two times more likely to be civically active, and two times more likely to make healthier choices according to follow-up research. 4-H reaches nearly 6 million young people across the country.
The Virginia Family Nutrition Program is a statewide obesity prevention program within Virginia Cooperative Extension. The program offers nutrition and physical activity education to youth and adults in low-income areas, as well as initiatives to support affordable access to food. Research shows that for every $1 spent on quality nutrition education, $9.58 is saved in healthcare-related costs over time.
The Walmart Foundation works to create opportunities for people to live better in the communities they serve. They meet the needs of the underserved by directing their giving to three core areas of focus: opportunity, sustainability, and community. Last year alone, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation donated more than $1.4 billion toward their mission of helping people live better.
Virginia 4-H, the Virginia Family Nutrition Program, and the Walmart Foundation are providing youth with a better start by teaching them how to lead healthy lives. The programs made possible by this grant will give students the knowledge and tools they need to make smart, healthy choices — choices that will serve them for the rest of their lives.