Florida 4-H and UnitedHealthcare Expand “Eat4-Health” Partnership, Use “Pedal Power” to Help Tackle Obesity and Encourage Healthy Lifestyles Among Youth

December 06, 2014
  • $40,000 grant to University of Florida’s 4-H Youth Development Program expands “Eat4-Health” partnership that trains Florida’s 4-Hers as health ambassadors to educate young people about nutrition and exercise
  • Grant funds pedal-powered smoothie bike and youth-sponsored events designed to promote healthy eating and active living

UnitedHealthcare and the 4-H Youth Development Program at the University of Florida are expanding a successful partnership called Eat4-Health that helps tackle obesity by promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles among youth and families.

UnitedHealthcare is providing the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), which administers 4-H programs throughout the state, a $40,000 grant to support youth healthy-living programs. A portion of the grant was used to purchase a pedal-powered blender bike that will be used for fun, energetic events where young people can create their own healthy smoothies through exercise. The specially made stationary bike is equipped with a blender mechanism that makes smoothies when pedaled.

The partnership expansion was announced at the annual Alachua County 4-H “Little Run on the Prairie” 5K race at Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park where 4-Hers, community leaders and UnitedHealthcare’s mascot Dr. Health E. Hound encouraged participants to stay active and create their own healthy snack in return for a little “sweat equity.”

After completing the 5K run around Payne’s Prairie, hundreds of participants and their families joined 4-H youth trained through the “Eat4-Health” program to make their own healthy smoothies. Participants and their families were able to create their own healthy smoothies made on the pedal bike. They also participated in a variety of healthy activities including hands-on demonstrations on choosing low-fat meals and tips for preparing healthy snacks.

The grant, along with the smoothie bike, will be used to support community events and programs in which youth and families can learn about easy ways to promote healthy lifestyles. Recipe cards, nutrition and physical activity information, and other resources will be distributed as part of the program. The goal is to encourage young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly. 

IFAS and 4-H, in collaboration with and in support of U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition education programs, are working together to provide innovative, hands-on learning activities for young people and their families in underserved communities statewide.  The activities will be led by 4-H and Extension educators, volunteers and teen leaders to encourage youth and community participation. 

“We have a strong 4-H program in Florida that is committed to leading the way when it comes to staying active and making healthy choices,” said Dr. Myers, Interim State 4-H Program Leader and Associate Dean, IFAS. “We want to help our community stay active and make healthier eating choices. The Eat4-Health partnership with UnitedHealthcare is a great example of how we are engaging youth to share valuable information and make a positive impact.” 

UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of the Eat4-Health events and assist in implementing projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level. The company has provided University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences $100,000 to support the Eat4-Health program since 2011.

“UnitedHealthcare is expanding our work with Florida 4-H to develop even more fun, creative and exciting opportunities for youth to engage in their health and well-being,” said Michael Lawton, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Florida. “The pedal-powered smoothie bike is a great way to empower youth to make healthy, nutritious food choices and encourage staying active.”

UnitedHealthcare is providing $520,000 to National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Florida, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Eat4-Health, which began in 2011, has already reached more than 210,000 young people and families across nine states through a positive campaign that has trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities. 

About 4-H
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org. or visit the Florida 4-H website at florida4h.org

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 800,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Globally, UnitedHealthcare serves 45 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

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