[Image: nutrition billboard]
News Release Distributed 07/21/14
BATON ROUGE, La. – The path to a healthier lifestyle sometimes begins with small steps. But for low-income people whose budgets and food options are often limited, taking those first steps can be difficult.
To help them get started, the LSU AgCenter has launched a marketing campaign to stimulate awareness and conversation about food and fitness.
This effort includes billboards in low-income areas across Louisiana as well as banners and posters that can be displayed in schools, stores and parish extension offices. The campaign will run for about a year and a half, featuring a new message every few months. The first round of billboards went up in June.
Three messages will be promoted: eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and increase family engagement, according to Diane Sasser, AgCenter director of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Educational Program, a federally funded program known as SNAP-Ed. By displaying these simple suggestions in places that people will see easily and frequently, Sasser hopes they will absorb that information and start thinking about their own health habits.
It is important to target Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, Sasser said, because obesity is a prominent issue among that audience. The billboards and other materials complement other SNAP-Ed educational efforts like workshops by reminding people to put in practice things they have learned.
Reaching out to children at their schools is also crucial, Sasser said.
"If young people realize the importance of making good eating choices and getting physical activity, they can bring that knowledge home to their families," she said. "The opposite is true as well because their parents might participate in SNAP-Ed programs that teach them how to be a role model for their children. The billboards reinforce those lessons."
That is one reason why the campaign is promoting family engagement. Eating meals or playing outside together as a family are good ideas, but family conversations about health are also needed, Sasser said. Children need to grow up knowing good health is a priority, and they need examples to follow.
Families with children, however, are often busy, which makes easy, affordable choices like fast food tempting. While it is OK to eat those foods sometimes, people should be conscious of what exactly they are eating even then.
"It's not about steering them away from fast food restaurants," Sasser said. "We want to make them aware of healthier options like apple slices that they can choose even in those situations. The goal is to get them actively thinking about what they eat."