TACOMA, Wash. – When Devin Drennen’s mother, Susan, offered her son ice cream for dessert, he asked for carrots instead.
 
Why? The fifth-grader at Edison Elementary School in Tacoma learned through a nutrition class about the importance of eating fiber foods to maintain the health of the body’s digestive system.
 
Students made carrot juice with a juicer and handled the fiber to see how it looked and felt. The hands-on lesson stuck.
 
“You know how ice cream is kind of healthy and kind of not? It has calcium, but it also has sugar,” Drennen said. “I asked for carrots because they are healthier. Fiber clears out the intestines.”
 
The nutrition class is offered through Edison Elementary’s Square Foot Nutrition Program, part of Washington State University Extension’s Food $ense.
 
Food $ense is a nutrition education program for children and families with limited incomes funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), WSU and more than 411 local and state community partners, including schools.
 
Program’s message sticks
 
Local county projects provide fun, interactive classes to help people develop skills to stretch their food dollars and eat healthfully, exercise more, increase their knowledge of food safety, promote family meals and support cultural traditions.
 
Other education venues include family nights, Kids Are Cooking Nights, cooking courses, recipes, gardening projects, newsletters and parent-teacher conferences.
Results from the program’s 2010 evaluation report show that children who go through Food $ense nutrition education are getting and incorporating the message.
 
For example 67 percent of students participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week; 75 percent eat breakfast that includes three food groups; and 81 percent wash their hands before preparing food.
 
Programs helps students, inspires parents
 
Food $ense youth are not only applying their newfound knowledge to make better choices for themselves, but also inspiring their families to change too, according to Food $ense State Coordinator Kathleen Manenica of Puyallup.
 
Parents of participating children indicate that they’ve changed some ways they prepare food so it’s lower in fat, sugar and salt; they buy healthier snacks for their kids to eat; they increased their physical activity during the week; they eat more fruits and vegetables; and they eat more meals together as a family.
 
“Parents and teachers have provided both written and anecdotal evidence that Food $ense youth are now strong ‘change agents’ for healthy food-related behaviors at home, at the grocery store, and in the classroom and cafeteria,” Manenica said.
 
Food $ense reaches Washington families through Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and SNAP-Ed.