- Hornbeck, MaryBeth
Rockdale County Cooperative Extension pivoted its successful rainbow-themed nutrition program to reach new audiences via social media during the 2020 pandemic. Nearly 8000 seniors, guardians, and children from three counties, two states, and two countries benefited from this reimaged health initiative.
The CDC reports less than 10% of Americans (both adults and children) consume enough produce daily, particularly vegetables. This is problematic, as diets high in nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables can help with maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk for chronic disease. Rockdale County has a high incidence rate of adult obesity (42% vs. 32% statewide). Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption can be hard with barriers including “picky eating”, limited resources, and lack of time or skill for preparation. During the pandemic, adults and seniors were looking for engaging and safe activities for their families and themselves, particularly in the summer months. Virtual programs encouraging produce consumption and cooking self-efficacy provide impactful education to improve the health of the whole community.
Rockdale County Extension’s overarching goal was to show the community that healthy eating can be fun and doable in hopes of reducing chronic disease rates. The Rockdale Eats a Rainbow (RER) program was modified for a virtual format with 7 color-themed weeks of live 45-minute educational sessions including 15 total recipe videos. Prior to the class, participants received weekly grocery and equipment lists. They participated in online classes involving a mix of live instruction and pre-recorded recipe videos. Videos highlighted food safety information, cooking tips, and appropriate tasks for children. Families could ask real-time questions and were invited to share their photos if they made the recipe at home. “Highlight reels” shared all the community photos from the previous week.
From 2017-2019, RER reached over 1750 people with in-person programming. The 2020 virtual format reached new and diverse audiences; 240 people joined live from three Georgia Counties, two states, and the United Kingdom and 56% of participants reported never attending a previous RER or UGA Extension program. RER video content also reached nearly 8000 people in a single summer. Final retrospective surveys showed that 100% of respondents attended or watched 4+ sessions. Having recordings increased access, as 33% reported not always being able to tune in live. 100% of families made at least 3 RER recipes and 78% of participants reported being surprised by how much they liked a particular food after trying the recipes. Unexpected benefits included novice adult cooks building their confidence in the kitchen. The evergreen nature of recorded content and polished videos has opened doors as well; the Rockdale County Senior Center emails RER videos to over 225 home-bound seniors each month to engage them while the center is not open for in-person nutrition education. Testimonies • “(RER) has motivated my daughter to eat all kinds of veggies and really get in the kitchen. She even repeatedly tries veggies she doesn’t think she likes just to see if the different recipe will make it a better experience for her.” • “We have definitely tried more recipes with fruits and veggies because of RER. We have printed out all the recipes and will continue to make them. My son, especially, has enjoyed learning more things you do can do with produce in the kitchen.“ • “The program was helpful and empowering. I'm a novice cook, but these recipes make me feel like I'm able to accomplish something.“ • “The seniors are enjoying your Rainbow videos! They love the music, handwashing, your cutting skills are amazing, and the nutritional value is there as well. Thanks for bringing that connection of your presence of eating healthy into their homes!” • “This was my first online experience with UGA. I am excited to see what else is available.”
Health & Nutrition
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: Multi-County
- County: Rockdale
- Location: College Station, Athens
- 4-H Youth
- Family and Consumer Sciences