4-H project to teach about nutrition, exercise and healthy living for kids and families



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The kitchen is a great place for parents and kids to get together, and the result can be tasty food and fun. If this sounds like a good idea, Tennessee 4-H and the Nutrition Department at the University of Tennessee would like to hear from you.
The two groups are starting the iCook 4-H program – a national research project focused on improving culinary skills for parents and children, and increasing family meals and physical activity for children ages 9 to 10 years.
The goal is to recruit 100 family pairs from Knox and surrounding counties to take part. The families will complete surveys, and kids will have physical measurements taken four times over the next two years.
Interested families should call 865-974-2855 or email icook4h@utk.edu.
Families can also get more information at http://www/iCook4H.com.
“The kids learn so much about cooking and really start to plan and eat healthy meals with their parents,” says Sarah Colby, an assistant professor in UT’s Department of Nutrition and coordinator of iCook 4-H. “Of course we are all concerned about childhood obesity in Tennessee, but this is not just about obesity. We don’t focus on weight at all. We want to help families enjoy food, cooking, physical activity and being together. Having a healthy weight is something that can come from healthy living,” Colby says.
“We want parents and their kids to be better connected,” says Amber Donaldson, a UT graduate student in nutrition who is working with iCook 4-H. “Lots of times families find it difficult to eat together because they’re so busy. We want to help them reduce those time barriers.” 
Participating children and adults should be free of any food allergies or activity-related restrictions. The program will combine a diet that includes a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy. Families also need a home computer with internet access, but children do not have to be 4-H members to join.
Children will have their height, weight and waist measured, and some youngsters will be asked to wear a physical activity monitor for a week. Students with UT’s Department of Nutrition will be in charge of the surveys and taking the measurements. Half of the family pairs recruited will have six, two-hour long classes every other week during the fall from August to November, taught by UT Nutrition staff and students.
“It’s great that we get to see up close what families face, and how we can help them,” says Kelsey Shanklin, a UT graduate student who plans a career in nutrition education. “As students, we really learn what reality is like by doing this study.”  
“One of our four H’s is health, and we want to see children who are healthy,” says Justin Crowe with Tennessee 4-H and UT Extension. “We would encourage families to take part in this great program and take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to become healthier and spend time together.”
Families will receive up to $60 for being in the cooking program and $80 for completing the four assessments.
Tennessee is one of five states participating in iCook 4-H. The others are Maine, Nebraska, South Dakota and West Virginia. The USDA is providing a grant for this program.
4-H is the youth development program for UT Extension. 4-H teaches leadership, citizenship and service learning to more than 194,500 youth in grades four through 12. 4-H also has more than 7,400 adult volunteers. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.


Dr. Sarah Colby, 865-974-6248,
Amber Donaldson, 731-445-6938, adonald3@utk.edu
Kelsey Shanklin, 662-415-3120, kshankl1@utk.edu
Justin Crowe, 865-974-2128, jcrowe3@utk.edu