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Case study

Kid-created, kid-designed healthy eating information: Ohio Small Grains

How do you teach students about the importance of eating healthy? Let the students take charge, and there’s no limit to their creativity!

The Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program Board (OSGMB) wanted to work with schools to develop a curriculum on healthy eating. The Mount Gilead school district agreed to participate. We met with teachers and students, discussed ways to get information about whole grains into lunchrooms, health classes, etc. But instead of writing lessons and letting teachers present the information, the Mount Gilead students thought we should let them teach it to their classmates! The FFA students have a passion for agriculture; they should be advocates for improving school nutrition.

The students were really interested in this idea. The FFA leadership group wanted to have a contest, so we designed the “Food for Thought” competition. Ten FFAs around the state got $500 each to design a plan to get information to students about the value of healthy eating—in particular, to come up with ways to get whole grains choices to students. Then the groups come together at the state FFA convention in May to compete for a $2,000 prize. Each group presents what they did in their school, and OSGMB members choose the winning group.

The first team used their $500 to buy a poster-making machine. They created posters to advertise the value of healthy eating. These posters featured some of their own football players. Other teams have done outreach to elementary schools. Others have had recipe contests, taste tests, and surveys about healthy eating. One team bought snacks and gave them out prior to the Ohio Graduation Tests, to talk about how good nutrition helps test scores! Teams have done food drives or made art work from cereal boxes. The great thing about all of this is that it’s kid-created, kid-designed. Rather than being very specific, this is open-ended, allowing kids to design their own plan.

We’re now in year 4 of this program. There are 10 schools participating. We have about a 50% return rate—half old, half new. The kids decided that a group who wins can’t compete for the next two years, so the winners serve as advisors. They get $500 each year for two years, and they coach new teams, help judge and plan the event. The OSGMB liked the students’ enthusiasm and creativity and also liked the way they were getting exposure across the state as schools got involved. They now want us to help them develop a culinary contest, maybe a cooking show, in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Education.

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