$2.5 Million Grant To Help K-State Researchers Study Kids' Food Choices

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Obesity affects more than 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago. Those weight problems often carry over into adulthood.

Dr. Tanda Kidd, associate professor in human nutrition at Kansas State University and K-State Research and Extension nutrition specialist, along a team of researchers want to tackle the problem head on by looking at what kids are eating and why.

"We are seeing that many of the typical adult diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease. Some of those diseases are now starting to be seen in youth and part of that is related to a child’s weight," she said.

Dr. Kidd and her team have been awarded a $2.5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to investigate 6th to 8th graders’ eating habits over a period of 5 years. Researchers will immerse themselves in communities in Kansas, Ohio and South Dakota to look at some of the factors influencing kids’ weight.

Kidd will serve as project coordinator for the five-year effort. K-State will take the leadership role in the project that is shared with The Ohio State University and South Dakota State University.

The goal of the study is to: 1) to identify barriers that stand between youth and healthy choices; 2) to develop strategies to overcome the barriers, and 3) to increase youth’s consumption of health-promoting fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and physical activity.

"We will sit down at the table with members of the community as well as youth in the community and then side by side, we will develop the product or the resources that they have identified that they need and we believe that that is a unique aspect because whatever we develop, we are developing it with the intent that it will be sustainable, therefore, once the project is over with and the research team steps back, this community should be able to continue with the work that has been started at that point and continue to move forward on those efforts," she explained.

She proposed a community-based participatory research (CBPR) model in which two communities with similar populations in number, race, ethnicity and income will be selected from each of the three participating states.

The control community will be given $5,000 to implement current proven strategies to encourage healthy choices.

The "intervention" community will bring stakeholders, including youth, their parents, teachers, community organizers and volunteers who interact with youth, together to explore food choices, eating habits and potential barriers or other factors that make increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet and adding health-promoting physical activity difficult, if not impossible.

"We should see an increase in fruits and vegetables and physically activity levels in the communities that we work with versus the control community in which that is the community where they did things on their own," Kidd told WIBW.

Barriers might include socio-economic level, the lack of neighborhood recreational facilities or school or after-school programs that encourage physical activity, closing of a local grocery store, limited choices in fresh produce, and lack of knowledge about nutrition and health, Kidd said.

"If we can address some of those factors, we can possibly decrease the number of youth that will have to experience diabetes, heart disease, hypertension at an early age in life and those are some diseases that we consider preventable so if we can help prevent them as well as decrease healthcare costs, then I think it’s a win/win," she said.

"We have identified some of the factors based on the literature but I would like to go a little bit deeper and find out exactly what it is that the child is saying. I would like to get those factors from the youth perspective because as we all know, many times, what we think may be the problem, it could be an underlying problem that no one has even thought about. So this will be an opportunity for the research team to go out and investigate some factors that may not have been identified at this point," Kidd added.

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