As part of their 2012 annual 4-H National Conference approximately 300 high school student leaders from across the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada gathered in the greater Washington, DC area. 4-H seeks to promote positive youth development, facilitate learning, and engage young people in the efforts of the USDA to produce “real results for real people.” The conference aims to empower and mobilize the 4-H students to create positive, meaningful change in their communities.
During the National Conference, 4-H students split into groups based on their areas of interest in order to spend time discussing issues relevant to their communities, and researching federal programs that have a positive impact on those issues. USDA employees from the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships had the opportunity to meet at the White House Conference Center with 25 4-H students representing 17 different states. The students were asked to research the issue of childhood obesity and present a proposal for how they would implement the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative in their communities. The group proposed a two-pronged strategy that focused on increasing the amount of time spent in physical activity during the school day while also improving nutrition education in schools for students of all ages. The students felt that a partnership between the First Lady’s initiative and schools would help reduce childhood obesity.
While one group of 4-H students reported on their Let’s Move! plans to USDA staff, another group presented their research on reducing childhood obesity with staff from the HHS Partnership Center. The students choreographed a dance routine and each student offered a statistic that outlined the scope of the obesity challenge (for example, childhood obesity is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease) and proposed solutions to tackling it. Like the students at USDA, they proposed more rigorous physical education in schools, with a focus on physical activities that provide students the “skills to better themselves.” They also spoke about the value of reading nutritional labels, as well as the importance of social activities like town dances that provide exercise and help build a sense of community.
Students in both groups also detailed how they plan to support Let’s Move! in their local communities by promoting and leading initiatives aimed at improving nutrition education and increasing physical activity. The students discussed creating clubs, working with their school districts, and developing a social media strategy to engage youth and teens in creating healthy habits. The presentations ended with a question and answer session that included a great discussion on how to most effectively use social media to connect with teenagers.
We were inspired by the energy and initiative of these youth to get moving! To sign up as a supporter of Let’s Move Faith and Communities or learn more, please visit www.letsmove.gov/communities.