Tackling obesity with food, fun, games at Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester

August 8, 2018

“Eat, Play, Grow,” a community health initiative supported by a 2017 Mayo Clinic Shared Value Grant, combined the right ingredients to entice kids and families to eat more fruits and vegetables and add more wiggles, runs and jumps to their daily routines.

The recipe creator was Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester, which partnered with Olmsted County Public Health, the Childhood Obesity Taskforce, Families First of Minnesota, and Rochester Hy-Vee Stores to develop the year-long program with events in the museum and in the community.

Introducing kiwi, cantaloupe and more

In spring 2018,170 families attended one of two “Eat, Play, Grow” events at the museum. “Our goal was to encourage children to try new fruits and to eat fruits all the colors of the rainbow,” says Sara Kelly, dietitian, Rochester Hy-Vee. Children were able to touch and taste five fruits while family members learned menu and preparation ideas.

Group activities got hearts pumping. Attendees made waves with a colorful parachute and children darted under it. Olmsted County Public Health staff explained how to measure heart rates and benefits of daily active play.

Eat, Play, Grow
Having fun while learning about healthy eating habits.

Families First of Minnesota, the parent organization of Head Start and School Readiness, invited families enrolled in its programs to the events, which included dinner. Families First, which serves low-income families, already hosted fun nights at the museum. “’Eat, Play, Grow’ took a successful event and amped it up,” says Becca Stiles-Nogosek, development manager, Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester. “We offered nutrition and fitness information that families otherwise might not seek out.”

“Eat, Play Grow” isn’t all food and fun. It is designed to tackle childhood obesity, identified as a critical issue in the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment for Rochester. In 2018, “Eat, Play, Grow” is expected to reach 900 families with information on healthy foods and fitness through the two spring events, booths at Rochesterfest and the Olmsted County Fair, and two vegetable-themed family events in Fall 2018.

Baseline data for future research

With survey expertise from the Childhood Obesity Taskforce, event organizers are gathering information from participants on their knowledge of healthy food choices, types of food served at home and the amount of time their children actively play.

“This data can be used to better understand healthy eating and activity levels in children Olmsted County,” says Nurse Practitioner Cassandra Narr, Mayo Clinic Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and a member of the Childhood Obesity Task Force.

“Eat, Play, Grow” has been a learning experience for the Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester and its partners, too. “Being a leader and a convener in health and wellness is a new area for the museum,” says Stiles-Nogosek. “One of the best parts of ‘Eat Play Grow’ is how the partners have worked together and reached hundreds of families.”

The Mayo Clinic Shared Value Grant was created in 2016 to recognize and support collaborative efforts to address community health priorities in Olmsted County. “Eat, Play, Grow,” was awarded $30,000 for its 2018 programs.
Based on initial results, U.S. Bank and the Walmart Foundation have funded “Eat, Play, Grow” and other Children’s Museum health and wellness programs in 2019.