As research shows that more American families are struggling with hunger, a new national program aims to empower youth to do something about it. Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that nearly 16 million children live in households that are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have consistent access to food throughout the year.
To help, National 4-H Council and ConAgra Foods Foundation partnered to develop the 4-H Food Smart Families program. The program aims to empower families through food knowledge and education to build sus-tainable solutions that confront food insecurity and improve health. In its first year, nearly 15,000 youth and their families were reached with the programming, and nearly 90 percent of youth surveyed said their families have started purchasing healthier foods.
In the program’s second year, UnitedHealthcare has joined the cause to help families tackle food insecurity and poor nutrition. UHC’s support, combined with ConAgra Foods Foundation’s, will allow for 4-H Food Smart Families programming in 13 states, engaging an estimated 30,000 youth in the process.
“We realize food insecurity is a critical health issue, with hunger directly leading to chronic health con-ditions, depression, poor self-esteem and toxic stress among American youth,” says Jennifer Sirangelo, president & CEO of National 4-H Council. “We know it takes more than meals to fight hunger, and we are eager to provide even more families with the tools they need to confront food insecurity and live healthier.”
Driven by 4-H teen leaders, youth participants learn to help their peers and families learn about food—how to budget for it, use it, cook it and make choices that contribute toward their health and well-being.
The 4-H Food Smart Families program incorporates the effective 4-H “Teens as Teachers” model—leveraging the proven influence of young people by engaging teens to empower their peers and families today and to help establish sustainable habits for their families and communities tomorrow.
To learn more, visit www.4-h.org/4hfoodsmartfamilies.