FOOD & HEALTH — 4-H Healthy Habits grant helps youth learn healthy choices

Malcolm Healthy Habits program teen ambassadors help the Malcolm fourth grade students prepare a breakfast parfait. (Photo by Vicki Jedlicka)
Malcolm Healthy Habits program teen ambassadors help the Malcolm fourth grade students prepare a breakfast parfait. (Photo by Vicki Jedlicka)

By Kayla Colgrove, MS, RDN, ACSM-CPT & Natalie Sehi, MS, RD, Extension Educators

The 4-H Healthy Habits grant sponsored by National 4-H Council and Walmart Foundation is currently active in more than 30 states to mobilize youth to take action around healthy food choices and physical activity in grades 4–12.

In Nebraska, 4-H Healthy Habits is led by Kayla Colgrove and Natalie Sehi. A joint effort by Nebraska Extension staff who focus on youth development, nutrition education, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) — along with 4-H teen ambassadors — made this program successful. This program was implemented in Lancaster County and 21 other counties between September 2017 and July 2018.

More than 2,000 students and 50 teen ambassadors participated in the program and were encouraged to make healthy food choices and be physically active. At the end of each program, participants received ingredients to enjoy a family meal at home.

The volunteer teen ambassadors were an important part of this program. They gained valuable experience working with their Nebraska Extension mentor to help plan, prepare and deliver the program.

Ryan Zoucha, a teen ambassador, shared, “I was excited to get some exposure in the world of teaching and education, which has been useful in my decision to become a teacher. Not only that, but it also has given me a chance to help make a change by helping students learn the benefits of living healthy and giving them the tools to do so.”

As part of this grant, 46 fourth grade students at Malcolm Public Schools engaged in over six hours of nutrition education focusing on MyPlate, healthy beverages, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eating healthier when eating out, the nutrition facts label and breakfast. Lessons were led by Natalie Sehi, Kayla Colgrove and four teen ambassadors: Dillon Beach, Laura Reiling, Ashlynn Sehi and Ryan Zoucha.

The students learned how to make — and sampled — several healthy snacks including a Shamrocks and Gold Smoothie, Banana in a Blanket, oatmeal pancakes [see recipe below] and a breakfast parfait. The smoothie included spinach, and at first, students were apprehensive about trying it, but it ended up being a favorite and many of the students made it at home.

Paige Westerbuhr, a Malcolm 4th grader, shared, “I enjoyed all the amazingly healthy snacks. I LOVED the oatmeal pancakes! I learned how to read the label on foods.”

Mrs. Stacy Kopecky, a teacher at Malcolm, shared, “The Healthy Habits program was an excellent way for students to learn new ways to stay active and stay healthy. They played games to keep them engaged in hands-on learning. Many kids tried recipes they would not normally try. They were able to take new recipes and ideas home for parents. The program made everyone more aware of food groups, food labels and the food we take in. The kids loved the program.”