Super tasters and mighty movers: extending The Food Friends® messages into early elementary school

D'Hooge, Anna, author
Bellows, Laura, advisor
Anderson, Jennifer, committee member
Davies, Patricia, committee member
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The prevalence of childhood obesity has been increasing over the last thirty years for preschool aged children, two to five years of age, as well as among early elementary aged children, six to eleven years of age. The epidemic nature of this problem has led to the creation of multiple programs and intervention targeted at preschoolers aimed at preventing these upward trends into early elementary school and adulthood. The preschool years are particularly important for the development of eating habits along with the development of gross motor skills. Behavior change has been seen within this age group following interventions, but retention of such behaviors as the children progress into kindergarten and first grade has not been as well documented. The overall purpose of this project was to develop "booster" programming for kindergarten and first grade classrooms that extends the messages from The Food Friends®, preschool nutrition and physical activity programs, into early elementary school in an effort to sustain behavior changes made in preschool. To ascertain the best method for implementing a program into the classrooms, surveys and interviews were conducted with a convenient sample of kindergarten and first grade teachers. Survey questions were mailed; follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with a subsample of respondents. Findings guided the development and implementation of the "booster" programming in kindergarten classes. Process evaluation surveys were conducted to assess the fidelity of program and guide the development of the second year of programming and modifications to Year 1. The main themes found from the formative surveys and interviews included: 1) nutrition was not a consistent lesson topic; 2) physical activity was left for gym class and/or recess; and 3) the need for nutrition and activity messages/lessons to be incorporated into academic subject areas. A 5 unit "booster" program, based on Social Cognitive Theory, was developed utilizing The Food Friends® characters and themes of 'Super Tasters' and 'Mighty Movers'. Classroom-based lessons, with accompanying posters and banners for the cafeteria and gym, were implemented in two schools from December 2011 to April 2012. Process evaluation surveys were conducted online with teachers after each unit for fidelity and overall impressions of lessons/activities; interviews were conducted one-on-one with Extension agents. Findings included: 1) all agreed that they enjoyed the "booster" program; 2) it was helpful to have an Extension agent come to the classroom; and 3) few completed lessons intended to be taught by classroom teachers. Appropriate modifications to Year 1's program guided the development of Year 2 programming, slated for implementation in 2012-13 school year. The efficacy of the "booster" programming on behaviors will be evaluated as part of a larger longitudinal study. The ability to resonate messages of trying new foods and being more active within kindergarten and first grade students will contribute to the establishment of healthful behaviors at a young age, building the foundation of lifelong healthy lifestyles.
2013 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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