WeCook: Fun with Food and Fitness was developed by Nebraska 4-H with support from Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR), a funding program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). CYFAR supports the development and delivery of educational programs that equip limited resource families, and youth who are at-risk for not meeting basic human needs, with the skills needed to lead positive, productive, and contributing lives.
Teaching proper nutrition, practicing food preparation skills, and engaging in physical activity are ways to promote individual well-being. WeCook: Fun with Food and Fitness (WeCook) is a research-based, evidence-informed out-of-school time program that has been shown to be effective for 3rd-5th graders. The program’s long-term goal is to give youth the skills and knowledge needed to engage in healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. This type of programming gives youth the opportunity to improve their well-being, thus, contributing to their quality of life.
WeCook is currently being offered as an afterschool program at Arnold, Elliott, Everett, Huntington, and West Lincoln elementary schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. After participating in WeCook in its entirety, youth have shown significant improvement in their nutrition knowledge based on USDA MyPlate guidelines, increased knowledge of the benefits of eating breakfast, and improvements in choosing healthy snacks. A significant overall increase in daily physical activity among youth participants has been shown. In addition, interviews with a subset of family members (n=14) revealed youth increased their confidence, had positive attitudes toward food preparation, and transferred knowledge from the out-of-school time setting to the home environment.
In addition to the local afterschool program, Nebraska 4-H also developed the WeCook curriculum. This curriculum contains 12 lessons focusing on nutrition, food preparation, and physical activity. Each lesson is split into two 50-minute sessions related to a specific nutrition theme. One session is dedicated to promoting balanced nutrition, based on USDA MyPlate guidelines, and physical activity through high-energy, interactive games. The other session is dedicated to food preparation, with youth preparing snacks in small groups. In addition, there are three optional family events where youth can prepare food for themselves and their families during programming. Afterward, they are encouraged to enjoy the food together.