State Appropriations Funding | Nutrition & Health
North Dakota | NDSU Extension Service | North Central Region
Nutrition education about the importance of calcium for elementary students increased the likelihood of making healthy choices.
Calcium is the nutrient most likely lacking in the American diet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 70 percent of preteen girls and 60 percent of preteen boys do not meet daily calcium recommendations. According to nutrition experts, this calcium shortage places the current generation at greater risk for osteoporosis, a condition known as “pediatric disease with geriatric consequences.”
Banking on Strong Bones addresses the “calcium crisis” among youth and reaches fourth-graders with an NDSU-developed, pilot-tested curriculum delivered in elementary classrooms across North Dakota by Extension agents. Based on MyPlate recommendations, the multi-week effort includes classroom nutrition lessons with participation incentives, educational materials in the libraries, supplementary activities and taste testing activities. Families receive newsletters designed to improve knowledge of nutrition and physical activity.
From 2005 to 2013, 8,766 children and their families participated in the five-week nutrition education program and completed surveys. They improved their knowledge scores and have made significant nutrition and physical activity changes to improve their health. For example: • 63 percent reported in the post-survey that they drank three or more glasses of milk the previous day, compared with 46 percent in the pre-survey. • About 81 percent reported in the post-survey that they drink milk every day, compared with 75 percent in the pre-survey. • 12 percent reported in the post-survey that they drink soda pop every day, compared with 16 percent in the pre-survey. • 25 percent indicated in the post-survey they would choose soda pop instead of milk if given the choice, compared with 36 percent in the pre-survey. In a survey with parents, about 51 percent of parents reported positive changes in their child’s eating habits as a result of this program. About 57 percent of parents reported eating “family meals” six or more times per week, compared with 59 percent in the pre-survey.
Increased nutrition knowledge at a younger age provides the best opportunity for healthy adult outcomes. Healthier adults are less likely to need medical attention.