Extension and Ag Research News


N.D. 4-H Clubs Eat Smart, Play Hard

Several North Dakota 4-H clubs earn recognition for learning about the importance of good nutrition and physical activity.

Youth throughout North Dakota spent the past year walking, bowling, skiing, skating and learning about health and nutrition to earn a special honor for their 4-H clubs.

They were named Healthy North Dakota 4-H clubs.

The 205 youth from a dozen 4-H clubs in eight counties participated in the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s healthy club recognition program this year.

To receive the Healthy North Dakota 4-H Club designation, clubs need to incorporate at least one health, nutrition, food safety or physical activity into a minimum of six regular meetings during the year.

The program is part of the “Eat Smart. Play Hard.” statewide community service campaign that emphasizes the importance of making healthy food choices, getting regular exercise and families eating together. The NDSU Extension Service and Bison Athletics teamed up to launch the initiative in 2005.

Lisa Long, leader of the Dakota Kids 4-H Club in Logan County, says good health is a lifelong need, and the Healthy North Dakota 4-H Club program teaches youth healthy eating and physical activity habits that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

Kathy Plehal, the mother of a 4-H’er, agrees.

“If you start with it early, you kind of ingrain it in them,” she says. “This was a good activity for them to do as a club.”

Her daughter, Shannah, was this year’s healthy club director for Cass County’s Triple C club. Members made a healthy trail mix, learned to read food labels, heard from NDSU Bison athletes on the importance of good nutrition and being active, held a food drive and developed a healthy rodeo, which required members to race around poles and barrels while being timed.

The Dakota Kids helped clean ditches as part of a community pride project, decorated a community sharing tree, helped kids with craft projects at a community old-fashioned Christmas celebration and participated in the Walk North Dakota challenge.

“It was fun to see them with their pedometers on,” Long says.

They also made an apple pie to learn about the fresh produce that’s available in the fall. The club members did everything, from picking, pealing and slicing the apples to making the crust.

“That was quite the experience,” Long says.

Other activities clubs participated in to earn the Healthy 4-H Club designation included sledding, kayaking, swimming, snowboarding, tubing and climbing a climbing wall; touring a seed farm, grocery store and egg farm; playing charades, and fruit and vegetable bingo; preparing holiday food baskets; finding their way through a corn maze; watching demonstrations on making healthy snacks and the dangers of smoking; participating in a homecoming parade; going on a scavenger hunt; and planting flowers.

“I was impressed with the creativity of the nutrition and fitness activities these clubs reported,” says program coordinator Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension’s food and nutrition specialist. “They are definitely on the right track to eating smart and playing hard, and that will pay lifelong dividends.”

Clubs are required to keep track of their Healthy 4-H Club activities and submit the information, along with photos and handouts from those activities, by July 1. Some also showcased their healthy activities at county fairs, local achievement days and the North Dakota State Fair.

Clubs that complete the program requirements receive a recognition certificate. This year, each club member also will receive some incentive items to remind them of the “Eat Smart. Play Hard.” message.

This is the program’s second year and the second year Triple C participated. Other clubs that participated both years are Blazing Saddles, Barnes County; Rainbow Kids, Cass County; Flickertails, Divide County; Missouri River Bunch, Morton County; and Northern Lights, Ward County.

Dakota Kids was in the program for the first time this year. Other clubs taking part for the first time were: Harwood Helpers and Green Bandanas, Cass County; Balfour Roughriders and Happy Neighbors, McHenry County; and Crystal Clovers, Pembina County.

4-H clubs interested in participating should contact their county Extension office.

Garden-Robinson is hoping even more 4-H clubs will join the healthy club recognition program in future years. She also is looking into the possibility of making it available to youth development programs outside Extension, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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