The Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program has partnered with an interdisciplinary research team of Iowa State University faculty and students to strengthen in-school wellness across the state. They’re working together on an evidence-based obesity prevention program called SWITCH — “School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health.”
Through SWITCH, students in grades 4-5 learn healthier ways to “switch what they do, view and chew.”
SWITCH is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unlike other school-based programs, it helps schools build capacity to carry out and enhance their own school wellness programming.
“SWITCH is more of a method than an actual program to be used to help support the long-term adoption of healthy living best practices by schools,” said Greg Welk, a professor of kinesiology who leads the SWITCH research team.
To support this school wellness initiative, the network of Iowa 4-H Youth Development staff across the state are identifying and recruiting schools to participate, as well as training school staff who are implementing SWITCH.
“The partnership with ISU Extension and Outreach will greatly enhance the reach and impact of SWITCH programming across the state. The integration capitalizes on extension expertise in promoting, sharing and supporting evidence-based programming and complements ongoing ‘healthy living’ initiatives within the 4-H program,” said Welk.
“Healthy living is a key program priority area for Iowa 4-H,” said Cayla Taylor, 4-H educational opportunities program manager with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Healthy living encompasses not only nutritional and physical well-being, but emotional and social health as well.”
Expanding SWITCH and 4-H Healthy Living
In an effort to expand SWITCH and the entire 4-H Healthy Living Program, Laura Liechty has been hired as the new 4-H healthy living specialist.
Liechty grew up in Madison County and obtained bachelor’s degrees in dietetics and global resource systems from Iowa State. She was previously employed as the Region 4 youth and nutrition coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach.
“What makes 4-H so great is the diversity in programming it offers,” said Liechty. “I have had great experiences in northeast Iowa working with 4-H youth expanding their healthy living knowledge and skills. I am looking forward to collaborating with staff around the state to bring schools, youth and families quality healthy living programming.”
Liechty will join 4-H field specialist Ann Torbert, who also is supporting 4-H staff in promoting and delivering the SWITCH project to schools statewide. Torbert brings experience in healthy living grant and project management as well as partnership development and social media interests to the team.
For more information on the SWITCH project and find out how to bring the program to local elementary schools, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/switch, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact an ISU Extension and Outreach county office.