This is an excerpt from the Live Well in Alabama FY17 Annual Report.
In FY17, Alabama Extension at Auburn University SNAP-Ed reached more than 27,000 youth with exciting education about healthy eating and physical activity through school-based initiatives and after-school and summer programs. The flagship school-based initiative is Body Quest (BQ), a multi-level, comprehensive obesity prevention initiative, which empowers Alabama’s youth to make healthier choices and engages parents in learning and behavior change alongside their children. Body Quest began as a theory-based, technology-driven curriculum for third graders and has evolved into a statewide movement helping Alabama’s children and parents Live Well in Schools.
During the 2016–2017 school year, SNAP-Ed educators provided Body Quest to more than 5,000 third graders in 55 Alabama counties, 114 schools, and 338 classrooms. All schools were SNAP-Ed eligible with more than 50% of students receiving free or reduced priced meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Classes included a mix of educator-led discussion, guided vegetable tasting experiences, and iPad app reinforcement lessons narrated by the animé-style Body Quest Warriors who possess superpowers from eating healthy foods. All curriculum materials were developed based on the Experiential Learning Theory to be behaviorally focused and developmentally appropriate.
A statewide impact evaluation of BQ was conducted with schools randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Both treatment and control groups participated in self-reported pre- and post-assessments. Treatment students and parents received an intervention between assessments. Control students and parents received delayed intervention after all assessments were completed. Student assessments consisted of (1) daily food consumed offered through the NSLP during a one-week period and (2) multiple childhood obesity prevention predictors related to nutrition and physical activity. Parent assessments consisted of (1) multiple measures of behavior important to preventing obesity and improving the home nutrition and physical activity environment and (2) measures of acceptance and effectiveness of a texting program for education delivery. Data was analyzed using t-tests and chi-square tests.
Body Quest Changes Behavior
- Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: At the end of BQ, treatment students ate more fruits and vegetables, ate a greater variety, and asked their parents to purchase fruits and vegetables more often compared to before BQ and compared to control students (p < 0.001).
- Beverage Consumption: At the end of BQ, treatment students drank fewer sugary beverages and more water compared to before BQ and compared to control students (p < 0.001). Also at the end of BQ, treatment students drank less whole milk and more low-fat milk compared to before BQ and compared to control students (p < 0.001).
- Physical Activity: At the end of BQ, treatment students were more physically active compared to before BQ and compared to control students (p < 0.05).
How Do We Get Kids to Eat Vegetables?
Vegetable tastings were an integral aspect of Body Quest. Repeated exposure to vegetables is one method of increasing acceptance and preference for vegetables among young children. Every other week during BQ, SNAP-Ed educators brought a variety of fresh vegetables into the classroom and led a group tasting experience. Rather than focusing solely on the taste of vegetables, SNAP-Ed educators brought attention to the many sensations that accompany tasting a new food. During tasting, SNAP-Ed educators asked students the following questions:
- “What color is this vegetable? What other foods do you like that are this color?”
- “How does the vegetable smell?”
- “How does it feel in your fingers and on your tongue? Is it smooth or lumpy?”
- “What does the vegetable sound like when you bite into it? Does it snap? Does it crunch?”
- “When you chew the vegetable, does juice burst out onto your tongue or is it dry inside?”
Body Quest Parents Eat Better, Move More, and Make a Change
Body Quest engaged almost 5,000 parents with recipe testing activities and text message–based education. Simultaneously with BQ classes for students, parents joined the Recipe Tester Club and received a series of seven inexpensive, simple, and kid-friendly vegetable recipes to prepare and test with their children at home. Text messaging was a fun and convenient way to motivate parents to improve nutrition and physical activity practices for themselves and their families. Parents provided their cell phone numbers and received three action-oriented texts each week with tips for healthy eating, shopping for healthy foods, and being physically active. In addition to receiving recipes and text messages, parents received educational materials such as BQ Family Discussion Prompts for tips on talking about health with their children and Family Activity Calendars for tracking family physical activity.
Treatment parents made positive changes in three main areas important to obesity prevention and improving the home environment: (1) healthy food and beverage choices, (2) physical activity, and (3) food resource management.
At the end of BQ, parents took these healthy actions more often than they did before BQ.
- Eat Better: Healthy Food and Beverage Choices
- 31% ate more vegetables
- 36% ate more fruit
- 27% ate a variety of vegetables more often
- 28% ate a variety of fruit more often
- 20% drank more water
- 36% drank fewer sugary beverages
- 26% drank more low-fat or fat-free milk
- Move More: Physical Activity
- 32% were more physically active
- Make a Change: Food Resource Management
- 25% ran out of food less often
- 28% compared prices at grocery stores more often
- 29% changed meals to include budget-friendly ingredients more often
- 29% shopped with a list more often
- 32% chose more healthy foods for their family more often
- 34% read nutrition facts labels more often
- 32% bough foods with lower added sugar more often
- 33% bought lower sodium foods more often
- BQ Text Messaging Program
- 97% enjoyed BQ texts.
- 99% used tips in text messages at least sometimes
- 55% used tips often or every week
- 79% bought more fruits and vegetables
- 82% drink fewer sugary beverages
- 93% have found more ways to be active with their third grader
- 88% said their third grader asks them to buy vegetables
- BQ Text Messaging Program Testimonials
- “I felt involved and encouraged to try new things with my kiddos.”
- “At first, my third grader was resisting the new changes I made at home, but BQ has helped back me up by teaching him to make healthy choices. Thank you for all you do!”
- “With the recipes and ideas from BQ, we make meals with vegetables that we didn’t buy at the farmers market before.”
- “Thank you. Whatever you are doing is working! My son came home from school asking for spinach!”
Body Quest Schools Make a Change
Body Quest supported schools in making positive changes to create healthier school environments. Colorful, life-size character exhibits placed throughout the school encouraged students to act like Body Quest Warriors and make healthy choices. Miniature, 3-D character figurines displayed on the cafeteria serving lines reminded students to choose healthy foods from all Battle Groups, or food groups.
Promotional efforts were just one way SNAP-Ed supported healthy environments in BQ schools. SNAP-Ed educators leveraged strong partnerships with 19 schools to facilitate additional positive changes, reaching almost 8,000 students.
SNAP-Ed partnerships with Body Quest schools resulted in implementation of five systems changes, 12 environmental improvements, and 13 promotional efforts.
- Systems changes increased availability of fresh, local produce in school cafeterias and facilitated novel distribution systems, such as community members’ gleaning from school gardens.
- Environmental improvements established, reinvigorated, or sustained edible school gardens; initiated a healthy backpack program; and improved food and beverage options in school stores.
- Promotional efforts provided tastings and signage to encourage healthy selections at school meals.
- Live Well in Alabama: FY17 Annual Report
- Snapshot of a Day, Live Well in Alabama
- Live Well in Communities: Positive changes spread across Alabama for a healthier culture.
- Live Well in Communities: Partnership with CDC
- Live Well Alabama: Social marketing connects Alabamians in meaningful ways.
- Awards, Publications, Recognitions, and Presentations