FSHN and FYCS Team Up to Help Students in Fight Against Obesity
Anne Mathews, Ph.D., RDN (Assistant Professor in Food Science & Human Nutrition) is the Principal Investigator for the University of Florida’s portion of a $4.9 million research and extension grant recently awarded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The national project, called “Get Fruved” is a social marketing campaign to promote fruit and vegetable intake, increase physical activity, and help students maintain a healthy weight. UF will receive $557,000 and will be working with seven other universities on the campaign.
The grant will allow UF students to first design obesity prevention programs for their fellow college students. Next, they will partner with high school 4-H teams; those teams will implement the programs at their schools and train more students. Later, the program may be expanded so that the high school students can work with local middle school children, and eventually the middle school children can help educate elementary school children.
In late summer 2014, participating students at UF and several other US institutions will begin to develop innovative and interactive ways to encourage young people to make healthy choices. While social media will be the major focus, students may also organize attention-getting campus marketing campaigns, create health challenges, partner with campus restaurants, spread the word about the program website (www.fruved.com), and perhaps work with local gardens. It is hoped that peer education will be an effective means of communication with today’s college students.
The “Get Fruved” website divides the project into five teams: Team Banana, Team Carrot, Team Grapes, Team Spinach, and Team Tomato. Costumed mascots leading each team, will appear on campus to try and recruit previously uninvolved students to their team. The activities of those team mascots will be posted onto Facebook and YouTube as well as the program website, and will also appear in campus newspapers, campus radio, and on the local news.
Additionally, the program will partner with campus student groups, not only those focusing on majors related to nutrition and health, but also such diverse areas as business, radio and television, dance, and theater. Activities, campus events, and even art and campaign logos will all be developed and implemented by students.
This project is a community based participatory research project (CBPR). Thus, one of the philosophical foundations of the project is that student participants are equal partners with research faculty. Students will have a crucial role in identifying problem areas, gathering and analyzing data, and creating solutions that will hopefully be most effective for people their own age; the students are recognized as experts in their own right. This approach should result in more effective long-lasting, real-world obesity prevention solutions.
The project is led by Dr. Sarah Colby at the University of Tennessee. In addition to UT and UF, other institutional partners are: West Virginia University, South Dakota State University, Kansas State University, Auburn University, Syracuse University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University, Rutgers University, and University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Tuskegee University, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Rhode Island.