FFHI Scientists Work to Reduce Obesity Among Mexican-American Children and Families in California


The Foods for Health Institute is partner in the project called Niños Sanos, Familia Sana (Healthy Children, Healthy Family), funded through an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project was imagined by Dr. Adela de la Torre, UC Davis Professor of Chicano/a Studies, and others as a way to offer preventative health interventions in Hispanic communities in California. With the enthusiastic involvement of residents of the town’s Firebaugh and San Joaquin located in Fresno County, the multi-intervention research, extension and education project aims to prevent childhood obesity in these highly Mexican-American communities.

Healthy Children, Healthy Family addresses the obesity problem from various angles. The project provides nutrition education and promotes physical activity, but it also acknowledges economic, cultural, educational, and environmental barriers. The end goal of the project is to transfer community-based, collaborative and sustainable tools to promote weight management among Mexican-origin children ages 3-8 and their families. The project seeks to contribute to change within families and schools. The project also seeks to involve the staff and students of UC Davis and for nutritional outreach education to become a part of a culturally-sensitive curriculum at Davis. 

The FFHI Education Program's involvement in the Healthy Children, Healthy Family project is managed by Dr. Sara Schaefer, Associate Director for Educational Programs. Dr. Schaefer has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biology from UC Davis and experience working with communities in Honduras as part of the U.S. Peace Corps’ Health Extension program. The FFHI will assist in the project by providing and managing the use of Polar Active accelerometer devices, which will be used to measure children’s physical activity levels before and after the intervention. Also, a physical education component utilizes the Sport Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) curriculum, which will be implemented in schools. SPARK is a program developed at UC San Diego as part of a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop and evaluate a health-related PE program for elementary students. 

This community and personalized approach to monitoring healthy habits and activity support the mission of the FFHI, empowering the Healthy Children, Healthy Family participants to improve their own personal health and that of their community. Learn more about the Foods for Health Institute’s Education Program and our current activities.

Watch News 24 video coverage of the Healthy Children, Healthy Family program