Food & Fitness Fun Club ®
Teaching healthy nutrition and fitness.
Recognizing childhood obesity 15 years ago, Stone Soup hired consultant, Diane E. Carson, Ph.D. in 2000 to initiate a nutrition and fitness program for the children.
Many factors have been blamed for the rise in overweight and obesity in the elementary school-aged child. Some contributing factors include excess caloric intake, including sugar sweetened drinks, increased consumption of fat and sugar laden foods, decreased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and calcium rich foods, decreased physical activity in schools, and sedentary behavior at home and after school (e.g., watching television, playing video games, etc).
Further issues impacting this vulnerable age group include cultural and environmental factors such as geographic area of residence, decline in family dinners, food eaten away from home, especially among low socioeconomic (SES) and minority children, and breakfast is skipped.
The Food & Fitness Fun Education Program© (FFFEP) is a nutrition and physical activity curriculum developed, implemented, and evaluated by Diane Carson, Ph.D. It is designed to develop and improve environments and behaviors that facilitate the importance of healthy eating, choosing nutritious foods, and participating in regular physical activity.
Fourteen nutrition lessons and five fitness lessons are presented. Nutrition lessons cover the ChooseMyPlate (food groups, choosing healthy snacks), healthy eating behaviors (proper hand-washing and keeping cold food cold), Fruits & Veggies More Matters program, and the importance of eating breakfast. Physical activity lessons include strength activities (sit-ups, push-ups), aerobic activities (running, playing tag, etc.), and flexibility (warm-up and cool-down exercises and yoga). New lessons emphasizing sustainability, school gardens, and farm-2 table are currently being implemented.
The lessons are designed to be fun and interactive and include hands-on activities that stimulate and excite the children. Another component of the FFFEP© is the introduction of unfamiliar snacks. Some examples of these snacks include dried fruits (mango, cranberry), Edamame, fresh fruits and vegetables, almond butter, hummus, and whole-grain crackers. College students majoring/minoring in nutrition from California State University, Long Beach and Chapman University are trained by Dr. Carson to implement the program as part of an internship program.
An initial three-year grant from the California Endowment and annual grants from St. Joseph’s Health Support Alliance helped to develop and evaluate the program and St. Joseph’s, Women Helping Youth and other foundation grants continue to sustain it.
“Parents report that the kids bring home what they learn. The whole family becomes more aware of the nutritional value of foods – and just how many empty fat and sugar calories there are in those chips, sodas, candy bars, and fast food dinners.””
- Diane Carson, Ph.D.
Food & Fitness intern, Taylor Stephens, asked her students to write valentines to their hearts on Valentines Day:
Stone Soup’s Food and Fitness Fun Club ® Has Children Reaching for Healthy Snacks In Place of Sugary Ones
Every parent in a grocery store knows what it’s like to be nagged for the latest sweet treat advertised on TV. Stone Soup parents, however, are hearing a new refrain, “Mommy, can we get some edamame?”
According to an evaluation of Stone Soup’s Food and Fitness Fun Club® not only are children choosing healthier snacks, water over sodas and being more active, they’re changing what their families eat and do together.
- 87 percent of the children learned more about healthy eating.
- Parents reported that about a third of the children drank more water and less soda; 26 percent ate more fruits and 22 percent ate more vegetables. After their children had been in the program, the parents reported their children ate chips 15 percent less often and candy 26 percent less often.
- 71 percent of parents reported they bought foods such as dried fruit, carrots with hummus, edamame, whole wheat bagels, soy butter, soy chips, soy nuts, pita crisps, red bell peppers, sugar snap peas or radishes for their children’s snacks.
- 47 percent of the children tested showed greater knowledge of physical activity, including strength, endurance and stretching.
- 44 percent of the parents reported their children engaged in physical activities such as soccer, bike riding, dog walking, martial arts or dance an average of 31 hours a week – well above the 90-minute goal set when the program started.
In addition, parents noted their own lives had changed as a result of what their children had been learning: 27 percent said they were more active since their children started the program.
“I enjoyed the program very much. My children came home excited about the new snacks and the physical activities they participated in. It has opened a new routine in our family to have more physical activities in our home. Thank you!”
Corine, Stone Soup Parent
“Children who learn young that eating healthy foods and being active can be fun, are building a foundation for a better and healthier life as adults,” said Judith G. Brandlin, Stone Soup President and Founder.
“It’s a tragedy that one out of every three children and teens is overweight. This puts them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, poor bone and cartilage development – even sleep apnea.”
Gustin, M.E., Carson, D.E., & Reiboldt, W. (2012). Teaching Food Safety. Health Education Teaching Techniques Journal, 2, 48-55.
Carson, D.E. & Reiboldt, W. (2011). An After School Program on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Elementary School Children. Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 39(3), 267-278.
Carson, D.E. & Reiboldt, W. (2010). Parents’ Agreement to Purchase Snack Foods Requested by Their Children. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 102(1),42-48.
Carson, D.E. & Reiboldt, W. (2005) Food and Fitness in Los Angeles. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 97(4),45-46.