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The Power of Young Voices in Nutrition Security

Nifa Author
Matt Browning, Public Affairs Specialist

Ahead of this year's National 4-H Week October 2-8, a group of 4-H participants from across the nation has developed a vision of how USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) can better integrate young voices into its efforts to address nutrition insecurity.

The group developed its vision last spring as part of a roundtable challenge at the 2022 National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C., and recently shared these ideas through NIFA’s Nutrition Security Webinar Series.

“We believe NIFA can better integrate a youth voice into its work to prioritize nutrition security by creating a national committee that oversees state and local committees that will reach youths through outreach, education and involvement,” said 4-H team member Krysten Hood of Florida.

The proposed national committee would be composed of 4-H members from across the United States who would work with NIFA to evaluate existing nutrition security programs and brainstorm new implementations while providing a unique insight on current issues.

“It was very inspiring to see how more than 10 4-H members from across the country could come together so quickly and effectively to put forth recommendations for how NIFA can better integrate young people into our efforts to prioritize nutrition security,” said Sheila Fleischhacker, Ph.D., National Science Liaison with NIFA’s Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition.

The group’s presentation focused on three components:

  • Community outreach efforts to inform young people about nutrition using social media campaigns designed to raise social awareness about healthy eating.
  • Classroom-based education to improve knowledge of basic nutrition information, enabling students to make smart and educated decisions about eating right.
  • Hands-on involvement to directly improve communities through projects like food banks and community gardens.

“By focusing on our three key components, we are able to provide an outline regarding what our proposed committee would be responsible for overseeing and facilitating,” said 4-H team member Sara Newsome of Ohio. “Prioritizing specific elements of each broad component provides the direction that state and local committees would follow in creating and maintaining their community projects.”

NIFA leaders are using such youth-driven ideas and voices to leverage the second, historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health on September 28, as well as the President’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, and are exploring additional avenues for young people’s input into programs and funding opportunities.

“Expanding the youth voice in our efforts is vital,” said Shannon Horrillo, Ph.D., director of NIFA’s Division of Youth and 4-H.  “A new Agriculture and Food Research Initiative priority area — Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America — is one example that will offer an opportunity to garner perspectives throughout the year."

4-H engages, enables and empowers more than 6 million young people every day, and this year’s annual 4-H Week is celebrating access and equity for all kids with a theme of #Opportunity4All. NIFA will mark the start of National 4-H Week by raising the 4-H flag at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, October 2.

Throughout the week, NIFA will be amplifying 4-H stories through social media, acknowledging the history of 4-H with an informational webinar presented by the National Agricultural Library on Tuesday, October 4, and culminating with a special 4-H Day celebration at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 7.

Visit the NIFA website to learn more about Food and Nutrition Security and Youth program efforts.

Top image: A group of young people posing for a picture. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock. 

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