Addressing the childhood obesity epidemic in rural Minnesota

July 5, 2016
Family members slice tomatoes on a cutting board.

Home isn’t just where the heart is; home is also where your meals are. Healthy meal and snacking habits at home could be building blocks for battling childhood obesity.

Jayne Fulkerson, professor in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, is partnering on a new family-based project to help boost healthy eating habits. She believes engaging parents and creating a home environment that nurtures healthy eating habits is key to setting the stage for kids.

“Children may spend a lot of time at school, but for many children, most of their meals and snacks are eaten at home,” Fulkerson said. “The foods and beverages made available and offered at home inform what they consume throughout their day.”

Children in rural communities are particularly at risk for the development of obesity. That’s why Fulkerson will lead a study, in collaboration with community partners Allina Health and the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, on effective means for preventing children and their families from gaining excess weight.

The program, New Ulm-Healthy Home Environments via the Mealtime Environment (NU-HOME), will focus on the city of New Ulm, where obesity prevalence rates exceed national rates.

The goals of NU-HOME include promoting healthy habits by encouraging:

  • Regular meals for families to cook and eat together;
  • Nutritionally sound and appropriately proportioned snacks and meals;
  • Physical activity, through community partnerships;
  • Reducing at-home screen time

Fulkerson will study how the program affects childhood obesity rates in the community.