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Teaching Lifelong Healthy Habits to Oconee’s Youth in South Carolina

| South Carolina



Starting in 2018 in Oconee County, South Carolina, the Foothills Area YMCA (FAYMCA) developed a successful partnership with Clemson SNAP-Ed to provide health education to youth involved in their out-of-school time programs. The students learned how small changes can make a big difference in a person’s health. Clemson’s Health Educator, Hugh Latimer, is a familiar face and a role model for healthy living for many of the kids attending. 


Families have many challenges. These include:

  • taking time to learn about health 
  • kitchen skills
  • selecting new foods for kids to eat, and
  • preparing healthy meals every night

In addition to these family challenges, there are many challenges faced by the children flowing into the Out of School Time (OST) program. Of the ten (10) Oconee County, South Carolina schools, four (4) are Title I and four (4) have 21st Century Grant programs for afterschool care. SNAP-Ed’s educator in Oconee, Mr. Hugh, works with seven (7) of these locations. 

Some of the challenges these children face include: 

  • access to healthy food outside of the school day
  • inconsistent health messages, and 
  • opportunities to be active

For many of these blended/single parent families, English is a second language. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights Out of School Time as an important part of the whole child approach. Research has shown that participating in OST programs can result in possible reduction of health disparities for children.


The FAYMCA has been a part of the Clemson community since 1894 and is no stranger to serving Oconee’s youth. Since 1961, they have been providing programs to enrich the life of children from the cities surrounding Clemson, including Seneca, Walhalla, and Westminster.

The partnership is a natural fit for both Clemson SNAP-Ed and the FAYMCA because of the shared values, priorities, and target audience. SNAP-Ed’s health education is provided at no cost and supports the YMCA’s mission to provide healthy foods, physical activity, and engaging non-academic learning opportunities. SNAP-Ed supplements the health education of children outside of what they receive at school. By having repeated access to health concepts, children build a knowledge base as they progress through the YMCA program. This encourages adoption of healthy dietary and physical activity habits. 

an adult provides kids with snacks while sitting at a table

Lessons are interactive and hands-on, using activities and games to reinforce concepts. A typical lesson is thirty (30) – sixty (60) minutes and is structured as described below. 

  1. Instructional time with an activity 
  2. Sample / assemble a healthful snack 
  3. CATCH games to get kids moving 

Lesson Topics include MyPlate, the five (5) food groups, portion sizes, low-fat dairy, and drinking more water. Lessons plans are from CATCH, an evidence-based health curriculum for school-aged children used by SNAP-Ed agencies nationally. Also used are supplemental free materials from the Team Nutrition - MyPlate resources. During COVID-19 restrictions, the YMCA staff were trained as teachers and delivered the lessons with support of lesson handouts. Children were able to continue their health education during the lock down period. In-person classes have since resumed. 

The current Childcare Director spoke very positively of the impact she had observed since taking the director role in the summer of 2021. The kids really enjoy the classes and having a break in the mundane schedule, especially during COVID-19 lock down when field trips were  notallowed. 

kids play outside

Increased Physical Activity 

The site program coordinators have seen the benefit of more scheduled physical activity time through Mr. Hugh’s classes. In 2021, coordinators started to include thirty (30) minutes more play time at the start of the afterschool session, specifically for children under eight (8) years old. Because this group does not have homework time, the staff saw the benefit of using this time for play instead. The CATCH game “Tiger Tails” is a fan favorite. Everyone likes this game because it helps the kids stay active the whole time and encourages teamwork. There is no “out” time like more traditional PE games. When kids get tagged, they take thirty (30) seconds on the sideline to do an individual exercise, like jumping jacks, then rejoin the group. 

a child decorates a graham cracker with fruit

Increase in Nutrition Knowledge & Access to Healthy Snacks 

The kids really get “it”. Six (6) year-olds are answering questions about the food groups that most wouldn’t know how to answer. They look forward to trying new foods whenever Mr. Hugh comes to visit. When he brought the fruit tart sample to class, one student said she had never had blueberries before and had the opportunity to taste one for the first time that day. 

Total impact from 2018 to 2021: 

  • 820 individual participants
  • 12 series with 3 – 7 sessions 
  • 5 Series with 9+ Sessions 

Continued opportunities…  

SNAP-Ed looks forward to providing health education for the FAYMCA’s afterschool programs in the coming years. An opportunity for future work with SNAP-Ed is to explore policy, systems and environmental changes that could be made in the afterschool setting.  Developing an outreach with the parents/families with the Cooking Matters curriculum could be another way to expand the current services. 

Prepared by: Loria Cass, Program Director
Clemson SNAP-Ed

•    Clemson SNAP-Ed 
•    Foothills Area YMCA 

SNAP-Ed Clemson logo and the Y Foothills YMCA After School & Camp Oconee logo
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