• Human Health and Safety

    Head Start: Jump Start on Healthy Lifestyle Program in Somerset County, Maryland

    NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: This project aims to develop a set of comprehensive experiential learning strategies for promoting the inclusion of fruits and vegetables as an integral part of the daily diet of preschoolers and their families to enhance their daily dietary intake, help reduce their risk for childhood obesity, and prevent adulthood obesity in the future. This project uses a concept that includes the child's home and school environments to enhance fresh food intake among preschoolers and their families. It also involves the collaborative learning of preschoolers and nutritional caregivers such as parents, teachers, and cafeteria staff at the Head Start program.

    The project expects to develop replicable strategies for enhancing eating habits that promote health and prevent childhood obesity, especially among at-risk, minority preschoolers. A conceptual continuum of nutrition education for children, that would include home and school environments and promote physical activity and eating behaviors that include the daily consumption of fresh food, will be developed in early childcare centers such as Head Start. The primary goal of this proposal is, therefore, to implement replicable multi-level programming targeting childhood obesity prevention that will promote sustainable behavior changes in the school and home environment.

    Specific objectives include empowering Head Start staff (focusing on teachers and cafeteria staff) to influence pre-school children's behavior through a healthful lifestyle educational program. Teachers will receive training on curricula related to healthy behaviors and indoor gardening, and cafeteria staff will reinforce their skills in healthy cooking activities. Children will learn healthful behaviors and gardening in the classroom and will be exposed to more fresh fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria. Expected Outcomes: Teachers will increase their knowledge and adopt specific curricula. Cafeteria staff will increase their knowledge, and the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased for the daily menus will increase. Pre-school children will increase their fruit and vegetable intake at school and the time spent on exercise.

    Another objective involves empowering the parents (focusing on mothers) to influence self health and their children's health behaviors through a healthful lifestyle educational program. Parents will receive training on healthful behaviors and indoor gardening and will learn how to influence their children's behaviors. As family health leaders, parents will influence their children's healthful behaviors by exposing them to more fresh fruits and vegetables at home. It is expected that parents will increase their knowledge of the importance of fruit and vegetable intake and indoor gardening. They will apply gardening skills, increase their knowledge of healthy recipes, and increase the family's, especially the pre-school child's, fruit and vegetable intake at home. Overall, pre-school children will have more exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables at home and at school. This exposure will impact their eating habits and prevent childhood obesity. In the long term, it will help prevent obesity in adulthood.

    FUNDING:  NIFA - Capacity Building Grant

    CONTACT:  Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, Assistant Professor/Extension Nutrition Specialist, 1890 FCS Program Leader/EFNEP Coordinator, vmzoumenou@umes.edu