News Release Distributed 12/06/12
BATON ROUGE, La. – Technology may be blamed for contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic, but LSU AgCenter extension agents are using it to help combat the problem.
Nutrition agents in 10 parishes will use iPads to teach third-graders health and nutrition lessons with a program called Body Quest, Food for the Warrior. Developed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Body Quest introduces students to anime-style characters through iPad apps that help students learn about healthy lifestyles.
“The primary goals are to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, increase physical activity, improve sleep habits and enhance family involvement,” said Diane Sasser, LSU AgCenter family development specialist.
The program will last 10 weeks, and during that time the students will get to know the Body Quest Warriors such as Shining Rainbow, Graino Supa, Fiberlicious and Muscle Max. Each character has a different healthful message.
“There is also Trans Fat Cat,” Sasser said. “When he shows up in any of the apps, you have to try to get rid of him.”
Sasser said agents will do pre- and post-tests to see how the children’s knowledge and attitudes change throughout the program. The students will use clicker devices during class to answer questions, and these responses will be recorded to help monitor what they are learning. A teacher in the school also will gather daily information about what the youngsters are choosing to eat from the school lunch.
Funding for the program comes from a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education, or SNAP Ed, the AgCenter received for this and other nutrition programs.
Sasser said schools involved in the program must have at least half of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch. The aim of the program is to changes habits and attitudes to help prevent these children from becoming overweight or obese adults, Sasser explained.
An added benefit of the program is exposing children to new technologies. Sasser said many of these students don’t have access to iPads. The AgCenter was able to purchase 360 iPads with the grant, allowing students in the program the chance to use one weekly.
Agents are still recruiting schools to participate. Parishes already involved include Assumption, Grant, Iberville, Ouachita, Tensas, Bienville, Washington, St. Bernard and Webster.
Sasser said they will use the information from this school year to expand the program to 17 weeks for the 2013-2014 school year.