Social marketing campaign found effective to promote healthy recipes

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/11/4 9:32:07

Two studies indicate that social marketing campaign could be an effective way to help low-income families in the United States eat more nutritious meals through fast, tasty, affordable and healthy recipes.

A specific campaign, known as Food Hero, was launched by the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service in 2009, was reviewed by researchers who have had their studies published in the journal Nutrients and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Designed to encourage healthy eating among low-income Oregonians, the initiative includes several components, such as a website,; Food Hero recipe taste-tasting events in schools and communities across Oregon; and a library of healthy recipes that have all been taste-tested and many approved by children.

"The success of the program is by far exceeding the scope of what we envisioned when we started," said Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and co-author of the studies. "Getting people to change their diet and eating behavior, especially when they do not have much money, is very difficult, and this program is helping to do that."

"Since 95 percent of the Food Hero recipes contain fruits and/or vegetables, people who try the recipes are helping us meet the primary goal of the campaign, which is to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption, especially among low-income families," Lauren Tobey of Extension Family and Community Health at OSU, who leads the program and is lead author of the studies, was quoted as saying in a news release.

Funded by the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education, or SNAP-Ed, which focuses on obesity prevention within low-income households, Food Hero's strategy includes providing clearly focused messages, writing in plain language, being positive and realistic with the messaging, and offering simple tools for action that include an explanation of what to do and how to do it.

One of the new studies explores how Food Hero was developed and tested. The other study examines Food Hero's recipe project in more depth.

"All of the recipes are simple to make and cost-effective for families on tight budgets," Tobey explained. "Many families can't afford to have a recipe fail or try an untested recipe the family may not end up liking."

The recipes are being tested with children who complete surveys or participate in a vote. If at least 70 percent of participating children say they "like the taste" of a recipe, it is considered "kid-approved." The program has collected more than 20,000 assessments from kids who have tried Food Hero recipes at school or at community events. About 36 percent of the tested recipes have received the "kid-approved" rating to date.

In addition, parents and caregivers are surveyed after their children participate in tasting exercises. Of those who completed surveys, 79 percent said their child talked about what they had learned in school about healthy eating; 69 percent reported that their child asked for specific recipes; and 72 percent reported making at least one Food Hero recipe.

As tips, tools and recipes get shared in person, online, through the media and via social media, Food Hero's reach expands beyond the initial audience, the researchers said.

And as the recipes on the Food Hero website received more than 290,000 page views in 2015, the researchers claimed that they are now being used around the world.


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