UD Cooperative Extension holds flash mob to raise healthy eating awareness

4-H Delaware State Fair Flash MobSurprising then entertaining visitors at the Delaware State Fair, a University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H flash mob burst onto the scene Tuesday, July 22, to raise awareness about the Food Smart Families healthy eating program.

The flash mob, featuring people of all ages, performed its dance routine to the song Veggie Believer by Carl Winter, a parody based on the Monkees’ 1966 hit I’m a Believer

The dance routine was created by Laura Sahd, a senior in UD’s College of Health Sciences who majors in dietetics and nutrition, minors in dance and is an Extension Scholar. She said that being able to combine her undergraduate interests while working with children was a great experience.

“It’s been really exciting because I teach dance, as well. It’s really fun to apply that knowledge and apply my nutrition knowledge and work with kids,” said Sahd.

While working as a dance instructor, Sahd has choreographed ballet and tap dance routines for 3-7 year olds but said she had never planned a routine this big before.

She said it took about two weeks to plan the routine and that two practice sessions were held in Kent and New Castle counties, with the routine video recorded and emailed to those who were unable to attend the rehearsals.

In addition to planning the dance routine, Sahd has also been spending the summer teaching the Food Smart Families curriculum to youth attending summer camps throughout the state. She said she enjoys the educational aspects that the Food Smart Families program provides to participants.

“It’s great to get them started learning about healthy eating and how to make healthy choices, whether they’re choosing fast food or what they should drink,” said Sahd. “Food Smart Families is a way to start to get people thinking about what they’re choosing to eat, and to start good habits early in life.”

Food Smart Families

The Food Smart Families grant was awarded to the National 4-H Council by ConAgra Foods, and Delaware 4-H was one of five state programs selected to receive funds to undertake nutrition education.

The nutrition education is delivered to children ages 8-12 in five two-hour lessons taught by one teenager and one adult. The goal is to reach 2,500 children in the state with 10 hours of nutrition, physical activity and “shopping savvy” education by Oct. 31.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explained, “One of the objectives of the Food Smart Families grant is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, along with increasing physical activity and a number of other goals.”

Rodgers said the flash mob “was really just a fun way for the youth to be involved in the program, to get engaged with the concept, to showcase what they’re learning and to help them think about it in a different way. We’re pretty excited about the flash mob and about what we’ll able to do with this grant in terms of outreach.”

Kathleen Splane, extension agent and state program leader for family and consumer sciences, said that in addition to offering the curriculum at summer camps, “We’re doing a lot of community events at different community centers where we’ve done the education. That is designed to bring the parents and the families in to learn more about the program.”

Sue Snider, nutrition and food safety specialist with Cooperative Extension, adapted curriculum from Cornell Cooperative Extension to create Delaware’s 10-hour program.

The five sessions taught are focused on getting participants to drink low fat milk and water instead of sweetened drinks, to eat more fruits and vegetables, to eat more whole grains, and to eat fewer high fat and high sugar foods. Sessions also teach the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.

Every week, the Food Smart Families curriculum is taught at about a dozen sites throughout the state and judging by the pre- and post-tests given by the program leaders, the message has really resonated with the Delaware youth.

“We’ve had some really positive feedback from the kids. Kids are saying, ‘I’ll never drink soda again.’ We’ve had kids that have been in camps and they’re reading the labels of what’s in their lunch,” said Splane. “And parents are responding like ‘How are you getting my kid to eat zucchini? They never ate zucchini before.’ It’s due in part to the fact that every lesson has food preparation as a component, so the kids get to sample a healthy recipe that’s associated with the lesson that day.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Doug Baker

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.