In 2016, the Lawrence County 4-H program was awarded $15,333.00 as part of the Ohio 4-H National Mentoring Grant – Tech Wizards. The program is offered to youth at the Ironton Community Center after-school site and the Chesapeake Middle School after-school mall. The Tech Wizards curriculum focuses on youth acquiring skills related to science, technology, engineering, and math with a healthy living approach.
The Lawrence County Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and the 4-H program teamed up to offer “Fit Family Fun.” The program, was taught at two low-income housing locations, Ironton in the spring and South Point in the summer. The curriculum provided hands-on nutrition and physical activity lessons for youth and the “Eating Smart, Being Active” classes for the parents/caregivers. Lessons were geared to implement consistent messages about nutrition, physical activity, food safety, and food resource management to parents and their children at the same time. The families were also given time to cook and enjoy a healthy, cost-effective meal together while learning easy ways to enjoy physical activity as a family.
Chronic diseases are largely preventable through a healthy lifestyle involving a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Obesity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity disproportionately affect minority and low-income citizens. In 2012, an estimated 1.8 million Ohioans lived in poverty. In an effort to reduce this disparity and improve the health and well-being of Ohioans, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), funded by USDA-NIFA, teaches an eight-lesson nutrition education series to low-income families with children. In 2016, 133 adults participated in EFNEP, reaching a total of 541 family members. Graduates improved nutrition practices (100 percent), food resource management practices (96 percent), and food safety practices (76 percent), resulting in 62 percent of graduates running out of food less often each month. Also, 42 percent of graduates increased their physical activity levels, 73 percent improved fruit consumption, and 41 percent improved vegetable consumption.
Healthy lifestyle behaviors can be difficult when an individual’s environment does not support them. At some program sites, changes in the food and physical activity environment occur as a result of participating in the EFNEP lessons. At a local residential rehab center for men, residents expressed concern about the types of food they were being served for meals each day, which included very few fruits and vegetables. After learning about MyPlate through the EFNEP lessons, the residents talked to the cook and director about using MyPlate as a guide to plan healthier meals at the center. The cook and director implemented the new meal planning strategy, which improved the nutritional quality of the meals served to the residents, including more fruits and vegetables.
Graduates who attended EFNEP at Help Me Grow also participated in “Cooking Matters at the Store,” a guided-grocery store tour. As part of the tour, participants received a $10 gift card to complete the $10 Challenge activity where they planned a healthy meal for their family by purchasing food from each food group. These participants demonstrated using a grocery list more often (75 percent) and thought about healthy foods when planning meals (100 percent). Participants also improved fruit (75 percent) and vegetable consumption (75 percent).
The Real Money. Real World. program is an active, hands-on experience giving young people the opportunity to make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those they will make as adults. In collaboration with Ironton Junior High School and Dawson Bryant Middle School, 166 youth in eighth grade participated in Real Money. Real World. As a result of the program, youth stated they plan to “budget their money better,” “spend money more wisely,” “save as much as they can to not get in debt,” “work harder in and out of the classroom,” and “wait to have children.”
In 2016, Lawrence County reached 595 individual youth through traditional 4-H club opportunities, showing an increase of 40 youth from 2015. A contributing factor to our growth in membership was a county-wide “Meet, Greet, and Enroll.” This promotional event provided more than 150 families the opportunity to explore 4-H projects, meet club leaders, and engage in other hands-on activities. During the event, 50 youth enrolled themselves using the new “4-H online” enrollment system.
A primary goal of 4-H is to help youth develop into caring, competent and contributing members of society by providing a safe, inclusive environment for youth to determine goals, make decisions and envision the future. These activities are primarily led by more than 125 screened, trained adult volunteers within 32 community 4-H clubs. With each volunteer serving a minimum of 35 hours annually, the value of their service to Lawrence County youth exceeds $106,373.00.
4-H community clubs participate in many service learning activities, project presentations, and leadership opportunities in hopes “to make the best better” through the youth in our community. Whitney Howard and Sydney Hairston, members of the Barnbusters 4-H Club, share their story:
- “I learned a vast amount of things at 4-H. I took ‘Let’s Start Cooking’ as a project this year. I have done many recipes such as trail mix, veggie pizza, and butter scotch squares. Some of the projects that my club did are archery, gun safety, puppeteering, and sports nutrition. My club did a lot of community service projects. We went to Jo-Lins nursing home to make valentines for the residents. We did a toothbrush drive for the homeless. We played bingo at Sanctuary with the residents and gave them Easter candy. We did a book drive for Rock Hill Middle School. We made a community garden. We also had a corn hole tournament and penny wars. There were 4-H camps this summer that you could attend. There was a STEM camp that Sydney Hairston and Jarrod Raynard attended. There was also a Cloverbud camp which Wyatt Besco attended. At these camps you could hike, do crafts, and go canoeing. I have had a lot of experience and have learned a lot.” —Whitney Howard
- “At the beginning of this year, I went to the 4-H Meet and Greet. While I was there, I learned about all of the different 4-H projects. When we went to the museum, I learned about long-ago doctors and soldiers. My archery instructor came out and helped everyone with shooting, I helped her to show everyone how to shoot a bow. I learned how to demonstrate how to show a bow. I went to STEM camp and learned how to make a hot-air balloon and launch it. I made a star tracker and learned how to figure out where stars will be each night. Our 4-H group was in the parade. I had a fun experience while walking in the parade.” —Sydney Hairston
Through quality assurance training, 97 percent of the 220 trained youth reported they learned to use good production practices to ensure quality products, responsible animal handling, and responsible care and welfare of all livestock, companion and performance animals. All exhibitors participate in quality assurance training, promising their 4-H animals are well cared for and safe for consumers. As a result, 389 quality market projects were sold to community supporters at the 2016 Lawrence County fair, for a sale total of 243,296.67.
Lawrence County 4-H CARTEENS is a partnership between OSU Extension, Lawrence County Juvenile Court and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The county CARTEENS initiative is a self-sustaining program, generating $1,700 in 2016, reaching 172 teen traffic offenders. First-time, teen traffic offenders are court-mandated to attend the traffic safety program led monthly by CARTEENS members. As a result of the program, teens plan to “limit distractions,” “slow down,” and “wear their seatbelts,” keeping our community and its members more safe.
Rural communities have higher rates of obesity and associated chronic disease than urban partly due to unhealthy food and physical activity environments. HEAL MAPPS is a community-based participatory research method that addresses perceptions of features that support or inhibit health behaviors through photography and global positioning systems. Seven youth mappers within the Youth Empowerment Zone in Ironton took 27 pictures of community features that they perceive to help or hinder physical activity and healthy eating along driving routes that they regularly use. Working along with researchers from the O.S.U. Food Opportunity Research Collaborative, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, and the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority, the mappers used the pictures and map routes to facilitate a community conversation with more than 20 stakeholders and leaders. The results of this process are resident-informed recommendations and actions around improving healthy eating and physical activity within Ironton.