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New education effort tackles Texas childhood obesity
By Gabe Saldana, Texas A&M
Nov 14, 2017
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TEMPLE — A new effort to reduce childhood obesity in Texas will focus on building youth skills in gardening, nutrition and physical fitness.

The joint project – led by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 4-H program and Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension 4-H program – will employ the curricula of AgriLife Extension’s Learn, Grow, Eat & GO!; Junior Master Gardener; and Walk Across Texas initiatives to educate students at six locations across the state.

“Our goal is to reach Texas youth and their families with easily adoptable practices and information that will spur lasting, healthy habits and increased wellness,” said JaNelle Casson, the program’s organizer with AgriLife Extension 4-H in Temple.

Young participants in a 4-H cooking contest wait for their dishes to be judged. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Gabe Saldana)

The $1.1 million, five-year project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It will serve schools in Tarrant, Bell, Fort Bend, Brazos, Cameron and Travis counties. Organizers expect to reach more than 1,000 youth with the project’s initial offerings and expect that number to increase as parent volunteers establish 4-H clubs and as children who complete the program return as youth leaders.

Lessons from the Junior Master Gardener and Learn, Grow, Eat & GO! programs will teach children and parents about gardening and nutrition through a science-backed curriculum, shown to help reduce obesity, Casson said. Walk Across Texas programming at the six sites will stress the importance of exercise by using teaching tools for improved physical activity and wellness in adults and youth across the state.

“To be able to combine these powerful offerings into a focused effort against obesity and related diseases is something we’re very much excited about,” Casson said. “We’re very eager to begin.”

Project organizers are now working to prepare the six sites to launch the new curricula this coming spring.