With health as the 4th H and with a variety of healthy living projects, 4-H as an organization recognizes the importance of promoting and establishing healthy habits for its members. However, some aspects of 4-H have yet to embrace health promotion.
In 2016, a survey study was conducted to 4-H club leaders about club practices related health. The survey results below showed that although some practices align with health recommendations, the majority of 4-H clubs surveyed were not serving healthy foods and beverages nor allowing time for physical activity during club meetings.
• Over 90% of clubs served water and not quite half served 100% fruit juice (45.6%), but other beverage offerings included fruit-flavored drinks such as Kool Aid (50.5%), artificially sweetened fruit juice (36.9%), and soda (33.3%).
• Cookies and baked snacks were the top food items served at club meetings; fruit was the third most served food item, followed by chips and pizza.
• A majority of clubs (59%) hold fundraisers involving food items; top items sold were baked goods, pizza, and candy bars.
• Only two-fifths of clubs always and less than half sometimes allotted time for physical activity.
• Club leaders identified limited time, lack of interest, lack of space, and physical disabilities of club members and leaders as challenges to implementing healthy living activities.
4-H volunteers have the opportunity to help children meet guidelines for physical activity and healthy eating by regularly incorporating healthy living activities into 4-H club meetings. For example, to increase physical activity, try including active movements into already existing activities such as icebreakers and roll call. Try to keep MyPlate in mind by including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsweetened beverages as snacks during meetings. Finally, consider taking the 4th H for Health Challenge to jump start your club’s journey to healthier meetings.