Engaging Youth as Advocates to Create Healthy Snacking Zones Around Rural Schools - Year 5


      This quasi-experimental study evaluated an intervention that engaged 4-H youth participants in advocacy for “healthy snacking zones” within 5 elementary/middle schools and nearby small food stores in a rural Oregon county.


      Youth engagement occurred through participation in 4-H “SNACZ clubs,” which were established in each intervention school. Youth club members received nutrition lessons and, with support from adult club leaders, planned and implemented outreach projects to promote healthy snacking among their peers and encourage environmental change within their schools and the food stores.


      Mixed methods were used to assess changes in school and store environments, as well as changes in children’s snacking behaviors and BMI.

      Conclusions and Implications

      After the SNACZ program, intervention teachers had greater overall nutrition knowledge (p=0.098) and were less likely to use food rewards for students, including sweetened drinks (0.053), than teachers in control schools. Mean availability of healthy snacks/beverages in food stores near intervention schools increased by 21%, while mean availability of these products in stores near control schools decreased by 19%. Students’ mean consumption of unhealthy snacks/beverages outside of school decreased in both intervention and control sites, but the magnitude of the change was substantially greater in intervention sites. No improvements were observed in children’s BMI. These results indicate that the youth advocacy can contribute toward creating environments that support healthy snacking within rural schools and food stores, which in turn can improve children’s snacking behaviors, but that further interventions are needed to change children's BMI.



      Supplementary data