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LSU AgCenter on a Mission: Teaching Students to Try a Variety of Healthy Foods

| Louisiana


The LSU AgCenter teamed up with third-grade students at Jonesboro Hodge Elementary School (JHES) to introduce them to a variety of foods from My Plate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Students were exposed to eight healthy food samples. Many students tried these foods for the first time and liked them.

two children prepare zucchini bites
A new adventure, students baking zucchini in breadcrumbs and they loved them!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Louisiana has the nation's second-highest rate of adult obesity (36.2%) and approximately one of three children are obese or overweight before their fifth birthdays. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, developing serious chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes that may decrease the quality and length of their lives. Challenges encountered included several students hesitant about eating the food samples prepared. They made comments like “I’m not sure about this” and “I’ve never eaten that before”. 

Kids playing outside
Students having fun exercising!

Jonesboro Hodge Elementary School participated in an eight-week curriculum, “Let’s Eat for the Health of it”.  This program highlights nutrition and physical activity. The LSU AgCenter partnered with Louisiana Tech University Dietetic Department recruiting for volunteers. They assisted with presentations, demonstrations, and physical activities. Twice a month, JHES students were offered nutrition lessons along with a hands-on approach in preparing most of their food samples. According to the educators, when they helped prepare the food they seemed to have a little more buy-in for trying new foods offered. 

Students at JHES ate healthy food samples provided. The samples gave them the opportunity to eat a variety of foods. Students ate a food from every section of MyPlate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk and milk products, and proteins.

Students enjoyed many of the food samples once they took a bite. They said, “That’s good” and “May I have some more?” and “I didn’t think this would taste so good!” 

Students looked forward to food samples each week. Only a few students in the three classes of fifty youth indicated they did not like the food samples. Students that participated in this eight-week program had an opportunity to try new foods. By raising their hands, many students indicated they had never tried many of food samples prepared for them. They were surprised they liked the food they tried! Students received recipes to share with their family. Many of the students reported back that they had prepared the shared recipes at home.  “Let’s Eat for the Health of it” sparked a challenge to try new foods.

a student tries yogurt parfait
Student tries a fruit parfait for the first time.

Sustaining Success 
Some of the things that will help sustain success include:

  • Continuing food programs like this and involving youth in preparation of food samples. This will encourage them to try new foods. 
  • Having the opportunity to remain in the school setting to help to encourage more youth to eat healthier. 
  • Training volunteers can help reach more youth to use MyPlate to build a healthier plate and lifestyle. 
  • Funding for supplies will help continue success. 
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