Missouri 4-H launches youth nutrition ambassador program

Student Nutrition Advisory Council clubs inspire healthy living.

  • Published: Monday, Aug. 31, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Earlier this summer, a special group of Kansas City area teens worked diligently to meet others’ needs in the midst of a pandemic. Part of an innovative new club format, six 4-H members assembled and distributed 54 healthy recipe kits to families through a partnership with the Walmart Foundation and the mobile food pantry at Kansas City’s Ruskin High School.

The teens are part of the 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council (SNAC) initiative, developed with University of Missouri Extension’s Family Nutrition Education Program, to create new 4-H clubs that focus on teaching nutrition along with leadership and citizenship skills central to 4-H. Modeled after a program designed by University of California Cooperative Extension, SNAC clubs reach new youths and families through partnerships with nutrition education programs, schools and other community organizations. The clubs meet in school or after school with nutrition education programs for underserved youths. Members learn to advocate for increased nutritional awareness, education and initiatives in their communities.

“This is about youth taking the lead for healthy living as they learn to promote healthy eating, better school lunches, exercise and wellness,” said Sarah Morefield, SNAC supervisor and a 4-H youth development specialist for MU Extension in Clay County. “If we can reach more families who may not have encountered 4-H before while also helping youth become nutrition ambassadors within local communities, it is truly a win-win.”

After a successful pilot in Kansas City, Missouri 4-H hopes to expand SNAC clubs into other counties this year. Andrea Wikiera, SNAC state coordinator and 4-H youth development specialist in Jackson County, is already working to set up a club in Franklin County, west of St. Louis.

SNAC youths also connect with research-based MU Extension programs such as Kids in the Kitchen, Eating From the Garden and Soccer for Success. They participate in advocacy projects to promote healthy habits in their community — such as the healthy meal recipe kits that the Kansas City teens developed and assembled (following strict social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines) with SNAC program associate Chundra Hampton. Each kit included ingredients for a pizza cake recipe as well as cooking utensils, with support from the Walmart Foundation, SNAP-Ed and EFNEP for help purchasing the supplies.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, as exemplified by one participant’s reaction upon picking up a kit and seeing the 4-H clover on the recipe card: “I know my kids will enjoy this because 4-H does great work. They used to do all kinds of things at my kid’s school. Are they looking for volunteers? Because I need to help them out.”

The new Missouri 4-H program year runs from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. More information about the 4-H SNAC program and other online and in-person 4-H programming is available in the Missouri 4-H Clover Catalog and on the Missouri 4-H website at 4h.missouri.edu.

Related story: 4-H teens teach Healthy Habits

Photos available for this release:

Teens put finishing touches on the healthy recipe kits distributed to families through the Ruskin High School mobile food pantry in Kansas City.

Cars line up for the Pizza Cake healthy recipe kit distribution at the Ruskin High School mobile food pantry in Kansas City.

4-H SNAC member Jeremy Jones puts finishing touches on Pizza Cake recipe ingredient and utensil kits before the mobile food pantry distribution.

4-H SNAC member Sanai Kintchen readies boxes for 54 healthy recipe ingredient and utensil kits.

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