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Back to the Kitchen

• OSU Extension tackles childhood obesity epidemic

September 1, 2012
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor ( , Times Leader

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Do you remember the last time you sat down for a meal with your family at the dinner table? If this isn't a regular occurrence in your home, your children have a better chance of becoming overweight than children who regularly dine on home cooked meals with their families.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, and in the spirit of promoting healthy eating for children, the Ohio State University Extension's family and consumer sciences program is launching a "Back to the Kitchen" social media campaign. Throughout the month of September, 37 of OSU Extension's family and consumer sciences (FCS) educators and program staff members will post a series of tips via social media - such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest - to help busy families find easy, practical ways to adopt healthier habits.

"Families are busy, but many parents are online at work every day, or they're on their smart phones when they're sitting at their kids' ball game or practice, or they're on their tablet when they're watching TV late at night after the kids have gone to bed," said Jamie Seger, program coordinator with FCS, who is coordinating the campaign.

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THE OHIO State University Extension’s family and consumer sciences (FCS) program is launching a “Back to the Kitchen” social media campaign during September to promote National Childhood Obesity Awareness month. Tips will be posted throughout the month via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to help busy families find easy, practical ways to adopt healthier habits. Polly Loy, FCS extension educator of the Belmont County OSU Extension office in St. Clairsville, said there are many social benefits to eating as a family, including less likelihood that a child will be overweight and keeping children out of trouble. One of the many topics the program will discuss includes MyPlate. To receive program messages, visit the Belmont County FCS program page at and hit “LIKE.” The first 200 to like the page will receive a free resistance exercise band.

"If we can't get them to attend a face-to-face program or come to the Extension office to pick up a fact sheet, then we need to go where they're already at, and that's online through social media outlets. It's about going to where they already are."

Research suggests that the childhood obesity epidemic is higher in Appalachian areas, making this program especially important for children throughout the state.

Nearly half of all meals are eaten away from home. Many other meals eaten at home aren't home cooked - these tend to be fast food or take out meals eaten in front of the television.

"We consume more calories when we eat a hamburger out at a restaurant than we would if we were to prepare a hamburger at home," said Polly Loy, FSC extension educator in Belmont County's St. Clairsville office. "In our society, being overweight leads to health complications, especially high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes."

The goal of Back to the Kitchen is to promote the social benefits of eating as a family. "Eating as a family is the number one protective factor in keeping kids out of trouble," Loy said.

The other benefits to cooking and eating as a family, according to the OSU Extension, are plentiful:

According to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA), children who eat fewer meals with their families during kindergarten and first grade are more likely to be clinically overweight by the third grade. The importance of the "number of meals eaten as a family" eclipsed demographic factors such as the child's sex, race or family socioeconomic status.

A 2010 study in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, conducted by Ohio State University researchers, found that 4-year-old children who slept at least 10.5 hours a night, watched under two hours of TV on weekdays and ate an evening meal with the family more than five times a week were 40 percent less likely to be obese than children in other families.

A 2011 study in JADA showed that families who ate more meals together tended to eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and calcium-rich foods.

"The 'Back to the Kitchen' message is for everybody, but it's especially important for families with small children," Seger said. "If they can develop healthy eating habits at a young age, that will hold and follow them throughout their lifetimes."

Each extension office will post a variety of topics and links during the campaign, including easy week night recipes, polls, handy food apps for smart phones, snack ideas, exercise tips and of course plenty of facts. Loy mentioned a great smart phone app called "Fooducate." Using your cell phone, scan the barcode of any product and the program will grade the food A through F to help you determine whether the choice is healthy or not. "There is no regulation to wording on food packages, so labels can be misleading," Loy explained. For example, granola bars can range anywhere from a B to an F using Fooducate. Loy hopes that the Back to the Kitchen program will help people feel more confident in the kitchen and make healthier choices for their family.

"Overcoming misinformation is always challenging," Loy said. "The links provided through this program are all research-based and reliable."

Seger also hopes the campaign will help FCS professionals develop online relationships with new and old clientele alike, which could help foster more in-person programming, she said.

"Extension offers wonderful classes and programs, and there can be a lot of impact at a face-to-face session. If we can branch out and reach more people online and develop an engaging relationship with people, they'll want to come to more of our programs," Seger said.

Julie Kennel, program specialist with OSU Extension and director of the dietetic intern program with Ohio State's Department of Human Nutrition, said she hopes the campaign will also have an impact the opposite way: that anyone who has attended an Extension nutrition program will be able to use social media as a way to remain connected and engaged in meaningful discussions about healthy eating.

For more information about Back to the Kitchen, you can view the promotional video at

The FCS program page can be found on Facebook at or follow the hashtag #backtothekitchen on Twitter. Belmont County FCS links for the program are for Facebook and #WellnessWakeUp on Twitter.

The first 200 people to "LIKE" the Belmont County FCS page will receive a free resistance exercise band. Just stop by the OSU Extension booth in the Carnes Center during the Belmont County Fair or visit the extension office, located at 101 North Market St., St. Clairsville (the Old Thoburn Church) to pick up a free resistance band.



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