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Sep. 25, 2015

Making nutrition and fitness a SNAP for underserved young athletes

Spartan Performance and MSU Extension are looking to help underserved young athletes and schools throughout Michigan.

Joey Eisenmann, an assistant professor in exercise physiology and director of Spartan Performance, is working with MSU Extension to train its staff members on new guidelines that will allow them to deliver basic health information, such as healthy eating and good physical activity, to athletes in low-income areas.

Funded by USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- Health Education (SNAP-Ed), these MSUE educators will be able to offer nutrition and health education not just to schools, but a wide variety of populations, including adults, youth, expectant mothers, senior citizens and families.

Currently, at least 50 percent of a school’s student body must be eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to be eligible for SNAP-Ed programming.

Eisenmann and his Spartan Performance team have already trained 10 MSUE educators and earlier this year, they began working on transferring basic nutrition concepts from existing materials and incorporating them into a school curriculum.

“The Spartan Performance nutrition program is a very well-grounded curriculum and we were excited about the possibility of offering it in the schools we serve with SNAP-Ed funding” said Beth Jabin, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed coordinator. “We don’t currently have a curriculum for high school students and this is a terrific way to connect with those students.”

RJ Gibbs, a Ph.D. candidate in kinesiology and a Spartan Performance research assistant is also assisting with the project.

“We ended up determining that our eight-lesson plan that we use in the clinic was a bit too much,” said Gibbs. “We condensed it down to six lessons and were able to provide educators with many best practices.”

This fall, the project will be further refined and piloted in at least 13 schools statewide, including Lansing’s Eastern, Everett and Sexton high schools and with the Todd Martin Youth Leadership program.

“The concept works – we need to hard wire it so our educators can deliver it with consistency,” Jabin said.

The lessons currently include presentations and printed handouts and as the effort moves through the school year, enhancements will include videos featuring MSU athletes. The collaborators also see many opportunities for building on what they’ve started in terms of sports education, nutrition and community outreach.

“Ideally we’d like to expand Spartan Performance and push this idea of the integrated sports performance model. We really take a holistic approach to educating our athletes — it’s not just performance, it’s also mental training, nutrition, and academics,” Gibbs said.

Jabin agreed.

“Our educators are excited about this project. It really is a great partnership.”

By: Laura Probyn