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Grass Roots Pilot Youth Programs Impact Fitness and Nutrition Behavior, Awareness and Knowledge


Champions for Healthy Kids Summit Unveils Five-year Evaluation.

If you were given $10,000 to improve the nutrition and physical activity of the youth in your community, what would you do? Build a playground? Plant a garden? Get kids dancing?

The result of that question was shared today at the Champions for Healthy Kids Summit, held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Champions for Healthy Kids initiative is funded by the General Mills Foundation in partnership with the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

The evaluation, conducted by Keecha Harris and Associates, revealed $10,000 makes a difference; behavior toward physical activity improved; awareness of the importance of eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains increased; and grants drove community partnership. Nearly 80 percent of the programs continue today.

“Our evaluation of the Champions for Healthy Kids program shows how important local communities coming together can be in helping children improve their nutrition and health,” said registered dietitian Neva H. Cochran, chairman of the American Dietetic Association Foundation. “We especially see the significant impact of registered dietitians in raising all children’s awareness of healthy eating and physical activity, wherever they live.”

Investing more than $2 million in youth nutrition and fitness pilot programs, the seed money – $10,000 per grant – has enabled more than 200 grass roots organizations across the country to find local solutions to the obesity issues facing America’s youth. In addition, the initiative has enabled 50,000 kids to earn the President’s Active Lifestyle Award. This award recognizes kids who engage in physical activity for at least one hour, five days a week for six weeks consecutively. The General Mills Foundation has dedicated $8 million to youth nutrition and fitness programs over the past five years through these two initiatives.

$10,000 makes a difference
The evaluation showed that the Champions grant garnered the most impact among small-scale organizations and their communities. Organizations with less than 10 percent of their budgets committed to childhood obesity programming sustained the most in terms of activities, events and resources.

The seed money drove community partnerships as grass roots organizations leveraged the grants to sustain programs. Approximately 45 percent of the grantees applied for more money from other funding resources; and nearly 80 percent of project activities and resources continue today.

The grants helped kick-start youth nutrition and fitness programs in low income communities across the country. Elementary and pre-teen youth were primary participants in the Champions projects.

Grants impact behavior, awareness and knowledge
Among the requirements for receiving a General Mills Champions grant is that the program must include both a strong nutrition education and a physical activity component.

Results from the evaluation found that both physical activity and nutrition awareness increased on topics such as the importance of fruits and vegetables, and the benefits of increased physical activity. The greatest behavior change was in physical activity, especially among African-American youth.

Each program also is required to incorporate the expertise of registered dietitians and fitness professionals. The evaluation found that the result of their involvement impacted both physical activity and nutrition understanding.

Knowledge increased on how to prepare healthy cultural dishes, how fruits and vegetables are grown, how to use a pedometer and why changing old habits is important. Also observed was an improved attitude toward healthier lifestyle, as participants were more willing to try new foods and activities.

Grants impact community partnership and collaboration
Community collaboration is key. Teachers and other community professionals were key collaborators whose commitment made big differences. Engagement of youth in the planning process was key to implementing a successful program.

Most of the Champions grants were delivered in elementary and middle schools, and after-school programs. Those of greatest need – those living in impoverished areas and those living in rural or urban areas – also were served.

The General Mills Foundation, the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness are encouraged by the results of the evaluation, and are proud to help youth in communities across the nation become more healthy and active.


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