Grand Forks organizations aim to promote nutritious diet, physical activityA four-year partnership between the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center and the Grand Forks Parks District aimed at promoting wellness within Grand Forks will be extended indefinitely.
By: Will Powell, Grand Forks Herald
A four-year partnership between the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center and the Grand Forks Parks District aimed at promoting wellness within Grand Forks will be extended indefinitely.
“We’ve been doing studies on how to enhance the impact and sustainability of healthy diet and physical activity programs,” says Gerald Combs, director of the GFHNRC.
GFHNRC’s partnership with GFPD, dubbed the Grand Forks Community-Based Health and Fitness Agenda, officially began Jan. 1, 2008, and had an official end-date of Dec. 31, 2012. But Combs says the dates of the partnership are relevant only to the formal agreements executed between the two entities, which are open for renewal ona five-year basis.
The partnership has resulted in several successes. Its two most notable achievements are a youth culinary project known as “Pink & Dude Chefs,” which is run out of Grand Forks’ Valley Middle School; and the Park Optimization Project, which involves activity studies at local parks.
Eating (and cooking) healthy
The Pink& Dude Chefs course was developed in 2007 for California Polytechnic State University’s STRIDE program, which studies ways to prevent youth obesity. CalPoly scientists believe Pink & Dude Chefs can function in any community, so GFHNRC nutrition scientist Leah Whigham brought the program to Grand Forks to gain an understanding of how it would function here.
“The Pink & Dude Chefs program targets middleschool-aged children for teaching them how to cook food ina nutritious way,” Whigham says. “The overall goal was to develop the program in any community. We’re providing feedback to CalPoly as to how the program works here.”
According to Whigham, Pink & Dude Chefs has a unique place in Grand Forks because it exists as an after-school program in a region with relatively few after-school programs.
Middle school students are the desired participants in the program because they are old enough to cook their own meals and teach their younger siblings how to cook, Whigham says.
While Whigham oversees the execution and research of Pink & Dude Chefs, the Grand Forks YMCA staffs the program. Each cycle of Pink & Dude Chefs has a maximum of 15 students.
“They wanted to do it with Valley Middle School because it is close to the YMCA,” says Adam Bach, YMCA youth development director. “It fits in with what we do … we’re making plans to continue past the research phase.
“It was really fun to go there and see the kids’ engagement,” Combs says.
“We’ve had great feedback in the community, and the kids enjoy it,” Whigham says. Despite the positive response to Pink & Dude Chefs, Whigham says continuation of the program is dependent upon funding, which runs out when the research ends.
But the YMCA has obtained a $500 grand for the program through the Coalition for aHealthier Greater Grand Forks.
“The YMCA intends to run the program either way,” Whigham says.
The Park Optimization project, which is overseen by GFHNRC physiologist James Roemmich, involves studying local parks to understand what motivates people to be physically activity in a park.
“We’re assessing park usage across all four seasons,” Roemmich says.
Roemmich’s research began in the summer of 2012. He and his team have found that adults like to walk, jog or run in a park, whereas adolescents prefer to play in open spaces and enjoy team sports, such as soccer. Roemmich also has found that young children visit local parks more than adolescents do, and there is a strong shift in an individual child’s playground activity when he or she grows into adolescence. Overall, a park’s design isa key factor in how active its visitors will be.
“A park that has a path will have more activity than one that doesn’t,” Roemmich says.
The observational measures of the Park Optimization project will conclude in the summer of 2013, Roemmich says. He will publish the data in journals so other scientists and the local parks district can view his team’s results.
“They might use it to design future studies,” Roemmich says. “One study builds on top of another.
“We’re always moving towards a healthier, more active lifestyle for the people, he says, adding the data could be incorporated into designs for new parks.
Combs is pleased with the cooperation the programs have received from each local agency and with the results of these cooperative studies.
“We’ve hada rolling agreement with them [GFPD] and have no intent of stopping,” Combs says.
Copyright 2013, Grand Forks Herald.