By Cheryl Hill, Healthy Weight Program Manager at The Knox County Health Department
N.E.A.T., or Nutrition Education Activity Training, is a program designed to teach and promote healthy eating behaviors among youth in Knox County. N.E.A.T. began as an initiative to combat childhood obesity and now reaches more than 650 children in afterschool sites. During the school year, trained volunteers lead interactive discussions and games centered on healthy eating and physical activity. Children also prepare and eat healthy snacks as part of the lessons.
The History of the N.E.A.T. Program
In 2006 a partnership was established by Knoxville Parks and Recreation (KPR) and the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) to implement N.E.A.T, a program targeting youth who are at high risk for developing unhealthy lifestyle and eating behaviors. During the 2012-2013 school year, N.E.A.T. provided:
One healthy snack per week for each child at 24 participating sites
Evidence-based nutrition lessons incorporating physical activity, utilizing the CATCH Kids Club curriculum
Lessons and healthy snacks to more than 650 children
61 student volunteers and interns for a combined 1,450 volunteer hours
After a year with them and the NEAT program, the kids are better equipped to make healthy eating choices and know they are keeping their bodies healthy in order to live fuller lives.
Seeking to enhance the N.E.A.T. program and create healthy environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice, KCHD and local after-school programs developed the “N.E.A.T. Approved” designation. This designation requires after-school providers to incorporate environment and policy change at their sites that would apply not only to the after-school program, but also the after-school staff. To date, eleven YMCA and two parks and recreation after-school programs in Knox County have been designated “N.E.A.T. Approved”.
What N.E.A.T. Educators are saying…
“I loved many things about the N.E.A.T. program! My favorite was watching the kids learn throughout the semester. I was excited to see that they remembered information from previous lessons and were able to repeat the information back to me. The snacks were a huge incentive and made the kids excited to participate in the lessons.”
“The NEAT program as a whole was fabulous! It is a great, non-stressful way to get experience with kids, teaching them a small lesson. It allowed me to get a taste of what working in a classroom would be like without all the worry of a regular teacher. It is really effective and great to see that they were listening to me every step of the way! Thank you so much for the opportunity, and I hope to continue with you next year!”
“As both a YMCA employee and a NEAT Program intern for the Knox County Health Department, I was afforded the opportune view to see the impact the efforts of the program made on the children at the YMCA. After a year with them and the NEAT program, the kids are better equipped to make healthy eating choices and know they are keeping their bodies healthy in order to live fuller lives.”
“I was a volunteer for NEAT last semester at E.V. Davidson. It was a great experience interacting with the kids there and I would like to do so again this semester.”
Websites and other resources for more information
http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/ with a database of low-cost, easy-to-prepare recipes following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans