CSU, Chico News

Nutrition Project Will Encourage Families of Young Children to Use Locally Grown Foods

Date: 02-25-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Keiko Goto
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences

Chico and surrounding areas have an abundance of locally grown fruit and produce, including ethnic produce. The Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion (CNAP), California State University, Chico, has just received $149,970 for two years to explore ways to encourage immigrant and refugee families with K-2 children to increase consumption of these locally grown foods.

The project is directed by Keiko Goto, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, and co-directed by Cindy Wolff, director of CNAP, and Stephanie Bianco-Simeral, assistant director of CNAP. The Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, a federal program, is funding the project.

“Hmong and Latino immigrants bring with them unique perspectives, skills and traditions that have the potential to make significant contributions to the prevention of childhood obesity among their own and other ethnic groups,” said Goto. “The project aims to promote the consumption of local ethnic produce as a means for promoting overall fruit and vegetable consumption. At the same time, we believe that social networks will be strengthened within and among various communities, including people who’ve grown up in this area.”

Project staff will begin by conducting focus groups with parents of K-2 children to learn about parents’ ideas about and use of locally grown ethnic produce. Then they will offer demonstrations of ways to prepare different foods and offer tastings to children in Gridley, Chico and Thermalito elementary school districts. Children will receive food kits and recipe cards to take home to their parents.

Goto says that a primary intent of the project is to be a vehicle for the prevention of child obesity through increasing the amounts and variety of fruits and vegetables that children consume. The project will also promote sustainable food practices. Goto hopes that what is learned throughout the project will enable them to expand to additional communities in California and other states after the initial two-year implementation period.

In addition to Goto and the co-directors, undergraduate and graduate students and project managers from CNAP will serve as researchers and project staff. Professors from the departments of sociology and statistics at CSU, Chico, and a nutrition professor at Cornell University will serve as research collaborators and advisors. “I feel fortunate to have such a great interdisciplinary team for this project,” said Goto.

Goto has published 10 papers based on original research in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the leading journal for nutrition educators in the United States. She has written two book chapters based on her work experience as a nutrition and health educator in Jamaica and Indonesia. She currently serves as the chair-elect of the Higher Education Division for the Society for Nutrition Education.

For more information on this project, contact Goto at 530-898-6767, or e-mail her at kgoto@csuchico.edu.