July 25, 2008

Fleming County youths learned the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity during an event led by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agents and program assistants.

The event was developed several years ago by the county's Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program Assistant Barbara Campbell as a way to further promote healthy lifestyles to the county's young people. It combines elements from the extension programs Jump Into Foods and Fitness and Superstar Chef.

"If they learn about nutrition and exercise now, it's going to follow them through their lives," said Gwen O'Cull, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant, who leads the class with Campbell.

The daylong program is offered to all young people in the county three times a year when school is not in session-once in the summer, fall and at Christmas.

Program topics vary depending on the time of the year, and new activities are constantly added. However, the focus is always on the importance of nutrition and physical activity. During the most recent program, the activities emphasized portion control, proper hand washing, MyPyramid food planning, different forms of exercise and the consequences of substance abuse. Participants also learned about food preparation and safety as they prepared their own lunch and two snacks.

Campbell said she has seen a difference in some participants, who have applied principles from the program to their everyday lives.

"I have noticed that those that have come several times to these events are actually trying to eat better," she said. "They will eat vegetables when they wouldn't before. They will try foods that they have never tried before."

Since its inception, the program has received a tremendous response from the county's youths. Classes tend to be at capacity, and many times, there are waiting lists.

The class has not only impacted students in a positive manner, but also their parents and family members. Donna Fryman, Fleming County family and consumer sciences agent, said the classes have helped increase adults' involvement in and awareness of extension.

"We're reaching the children at a young age, and they're the ones influencing their parents. So what has happened over the years is they've become our clientele and started using the extension service more," she said. "We've had a lot of parents to come in and volunteer after their children have been here. Once in a while, we'll get a new homemaker member or just folks that start coming in here more."