Test Scores rise as BMIs decline

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					By Lisa Lakey
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower       mhightower@uaex.edu               501-671-2126
Sept. 14, 2012

(644 words)
Test Scores rise as BMIs decline
FOUKE, Ark. – Not only are children learning the benefits of choosing carrots over chips, but
they’re also performing better on tests. At least that’s the case in one Arkansas school thanks in
part to a partnership with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s
Cooperative Extension Service and the SNAP-Ed program.

With a little help from SNAP-Ed, which stands for Smart Nutrition Active People-Education,
Fouke Elementary School in Miller County is proving that good nutrition and physical activity can
improve a child’s overall health. Recent reports show slightly more than 13 percent of the
school’s students are obese, down from 20 percent in 2005. Along with lower BMIs, test scores
have risen in nearly every subject over the past few years and are at or above the state average
in all areas.

Along with physical education, the school has worked in partnership with the extension service
to offer the children a hands-on nutrition learning experience. Carla Haley, a Cooperative
Extension Service agent in Miller County, said it is the school’s administration that is responsible
for the students’ success.

“The principal at Fouke really strongly believes in the link between physical activity, nutrition and
health,” Haley said. “So he does a lot of physical activity things as part of the curriculum and
then makes sure that we have the time to do nutrition education every day.”

During the classes, children are introduced to a variety of foods that may or may not normally
make it onto their plate. They discuss the nutritional value of the food, a variety of ways to eat it
and then each child is also offered a sample of the food prepared in a healthy, but kid-friendly
way.

“I’m a big believer in if you get the kids involved and if they make the food, then they’re more
likely to make it again at home,” Haley said. “We’re hoping to build that lifelong love of healthy
eating.”

The SNAP-Ed program has been in the state since 1995 as a partnership between the
Cooperative Extension Service and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP,
which is part of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. In 2011, the program provided
nutrition education to more than 40,000 adults and children in all 75 counties. Rosemary
Rodibaugh, a professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,
said the program targets individuals who receive or are eligible for SNAP benefits.

“Roughly one in five Arkansans are on the SNAP program,” Rodibaugh said. “A lot of SNAP
participants don’t have the education, the knowledge or the skills to use the SNAP benefits to
purchase healthy foods, so we try to give them the information they need to make better
choices.”
In 2011, the SNAP-Ed program was conducted in 166 schools around the state in which 50
percent or more of the children received free or reduced-price lunches. In Pulaski County,
extension agent Ashley Carroll said school-age children from preschool and up are learning
about nutrition through programs such as Pick a Better Snack, OrganWise Guys, Color Me
Healthy and Eating from the Garden. Last school year, more than 4,000 nutrition lessons were
taught to children in 12 schools through the Pulaski County SNAP-Ed program.

“If we can start at an early age, it won’t be so hard to try to change their eating patterns as they
get older,” she said.

While the program reaches out to Arkansans of all ages, the programs for children have proven
enormously successful. The SNAP-Ed program hopes to replicate the success seen at Fouke
Elementary in other schools across the state.

“Kids form their eating habits at an early age,” Rodibaugh said. “We used to think it was a little
older, but now research has shown that children as young as two years mimic their parents’
food choices. So it’s important to reach them as soon as possible.”

For more information about SNAP-ED, contact your county extension office, or visit
www.uaex.edu or www.arfamilies.org/health_nutrition/SnapEd.htm.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of
Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national
origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected
status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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