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Oregon State University Researchers Tackle Obesity in Rural America

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the U.S. Department of Agriculture blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the agency’s rich science and research portfolio.

Rural America is often portrayed in Hollywood as an idyllic place where kids can run free, ride their bikes and pick fresh food out of gardens. The reality is that rural communities face challenges that are different than those experienced in urban areas – especially challenges that contribute to rising childhood obesity levels among rural youth. Despite a perception of abundant resources, including land for growing food and active recreation, rural children face a lack of access to and availability of fresh and nutritious foods, and the distances between destinations makes it difficult to walk or bike and participate in structured and unstructured physical activity programs.

To help families and communities face these challenges, Oregon State University (OSU) professors Deborah John and Kathy Gunter are working on solutions. Along with their colleagues at OSU and partnering institutions, the team will work closely with rural residents in six Western states to document the features in their communities that are viewed as preventing or promoting obesity and the community resources and readiness to help with prevention efforts. The project, which is funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will then use these findings to develop and implement obesity prevention programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity specifically to rural children.

Despite a perception of abundant resources, including land for growing food and active recreation, rural children face a lack of access to and availability of fresh and nutritious foods.

Despite a perception of abundant resources, including land for growing food and active recreation, rural children face a lack of access to and availability of fresh and nutritious foods. (photo from istockphoto.com)

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