Families Understanding Nutrition is a collaborative partnership between Einstein and more than 25 agencies including, the School District of Philadelphia and Carson Valley Children's Aid to provide general nutrition education to low income families. In 2011, almost two million contacts will be made to more than 40,000 individuals to provide education and skills to make healthy eating choices.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. Although the primary focus of FUN is on children, we view the children as a conduit to the entire family, and that the information we provide will benefit the entire family.
Pre-School and K-2 According to PA DPW Enterprise Data Warehouse for September 2008, 177,778 children less than 6 years of age participated in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program) during September 2008. According to TRACKS STAR data for FY08, only 2,360 pre-school age children (less than 5 years of age) participated in SNAP-Ed during Fiscal Year 2008. Therefore, only 1.3% of the preschool children in the Commonwealth that participate in SNAP received any kind of coordinated nutrition education.
An individual’s eating habits-their likes and dislikes develop at a very young age. Establishing good nutrition habits early are a critical factor for healthy physical and mental development. Through FUN, pre-school children and their families learn about healthy snacks, breakfasts, dairy foods, fruits and vegetables and have the opportunity to taste these food types.
The development of FUN from A to Z took into account the needs of the children being taught as well as the goals and aspirations of the teachers. Healthful eating is taught through experience, the most critical teacher for young children. It fosters language, motor, social, and cognitive development through fun activities. It supports and reinforces the educational goals of the teachers – allowing them more time to reinforce critical messages. Materials that are pertinent to the core curriculum are used by the teachers to follow up and reinforce the nutrition lessons on a daily basis.
In order to address the issue of healthful eating without sacrificing the critical skills that children need at the pre-school level, we developed FUN from A to Z, which integrates reading readiness skills, songs, movement, and craft activities into a weekly program that teaches about healthful eating. Going though the alphabet, children learn about a healthy food each week using all five senses. Children learn to describe the food, which increases their familiarity with size, shape, color, and textures. Children learn to express their opinions about how it tastes, which increases their vocabulary. Children also learn to like new foods and ask for more. Teachers are provided with materials to use to follow up and reinforce the lessons. Songs are integrated into the children's musical repertoire and are constant and fun reminders of healthy eating habits. Additionally, parents receive a short summary of the lessons that have been given to the children with simple suggestions as to how to integrate healthy eating into their routine and daily lives.
Grades 3-12 Age-appropriate lessons focus on topics such as MyPyramid, fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks and beverages, grains and calcium-rich products, label reading and fast food. Each lesson builds on the knowledge learned from the previous lesson and includes a food tasting that corresponds to the lesson topic. Materials that are pertinent to the core curriculum are used by the teachers to follow up and reinforce the nutrition education. Lessons are taught with the objective that by the end of fifth grade, students will be able to identify whole grains and distinguish the difference between whole grains and refined grains. In sixth through eighth grades, lessons will be taught with the objective that by the end of eighth grade, students will be able to summarize the benefits of whole grain foods.
Success / Results 100% of families participating in our program understand the importance of eating calcium-rich foods, a variety of fruits and vegetables and participating in regular physical activity. In FY10, more than 20,000 unduplicated participants received nutrition education through more than 500,000 contacts.
Measurable Outcomes include:
• 95% of the children can distinguish between healthful foods they can eat all the time and foods that should be eaten on a limited basis (sometime foods).
• More than 95% of the children are willing taste the new food each week with an average of 85% liking any one food
• 75% of children can identify fruits and vegetables when they go to the supermarket with their caregivers
• 85% of children are bringing healthier snacks to daycare
• 90% of children identify a fruit or vegetable as their favorite food
Anecdotal Outcomes include:
• According to feedback from caregivers, children go home and ask their caregivers to buy the fruit or vegetable they tasted. Caregivers are more willing to make these purchases knowing the food will not go to waste.
• A classroom teacher informed us that the end-of-year party would be a fruit party, because when the children were asked what treats they would like for the party, they asked for fruit salad.
• The pre-school class teachers are willing to reinforce the nutrition messages given with additional activities because the materials address the developmental needs of the students.
• As a result of these partnerships, daycare providers and pre-school teachers are referring at-risk families for one-on-one nutrition education services at our hospital. These nutrition education services are not reimbursable. We average 200 families a year.
Program History From 1999-2002, Einstein was a key collaborator with the Farmer's Market Trust in a USDA supported program educating low-income Philadelphia families in healthful eating. FUN was developed and supported by the USDA in 2003 to target working poor households with children age 3-5 in area daycare centers. In 2004, FUN expanded to include families and patients cared for at the Pediatric and Adolescent Ambulatory Center at our hospital. In 2005, we partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to provide their EAT.RIGHT.NOW program to more than 30 elementary schools in the District. This collaboration led to the expansion of FUN in 2009 to include 540 head start and pre-school classes throughout 191 sites in the School District of Philadelphia. For 2011, FUN is expanding to include high school students, young adults in transition, pregnant women, homeless adults and seniors. Einstein’s FUN program is part of the statewide SNAP-Ed program.