Shaping Healthy Choices Program

Kids running around egghead at UC Davis.

Childhood Obesity Reduced by Shaping Healthy Choices

The Challenge

Healthy eating is a fundamental part of raising healthy children, yet obesity among our youth is one of the critical societal challenges of our time. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the United States. Bigger portion sizes, easier access to convenient, high-calorie processed foods, increased snacking and less exercise have contributed to this serious issue. Approximately 32 percent of American youth, from 2 to 19 years old, are either overweight or obese. Obesity is the leading preventable cause of chronic disease and mortality in the United States, and obese children have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults. The health of our youth and our country can be improved greatly with education and lifestyle changes that focus on dietary choices and physical activity.

The Vision

The UC Davis Department of Nutrition is creating solutions and behavioral interventions that combat obesity in elementary-school-aged youth. Our interdisciplinary program, Shaping Healthy Choices Program, successfully delivers comprehensive, community and school-based nutrition interventions that include educating youth on how and where their food is grown, eating nutritious foods and empowering youth to make healthy choices. The result is substantial improvements in overweight and obesity among this population. With the support of visionary philanthropic partners, one of our ambitious goals is to build upon and expand the success of the Shaping Healthy Choices Program to include middle and high-school-aged youth. During the initial pilot in one Sacramento school district, youth classified as overweight or obese dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent. A Sacramento area student in the program said after losing 20 pounds, she smiles more these days and is doing better in school. This program has been implemented in partnership with the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program.

The Philanthropic Opportunity

Through the creation of a $3 million endowment, we can reach the program’s true potential and make the greatest societal impact. The fund would support expansion of the Shaping Healthy Choices Program and create opportunities to promote and inspire new ideas at the individual and community level that encourage healthful food choices and prevent obesity. This fund would also support college faculty and students who are addressing critical issues to develop and sustain healthy individuals and communities.

Funded activities will take the successful Shaping Healthy Choices Program to the next level and expand the program’s reach to include both elementary and teen-aged youth. Emphasis will be on multifaceted approaches that incorporate nutrition and agricultural education, physical activity and parent involvement. Priority will be given to demonstrated, solutions-oriented approaches that produce lasting changes.