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Research in the REACH Lab


Fruved is a USDA-funded research project designed to ultimately decrease the proportion of older adolescents who are overweight or obese. The goal of the study is to use an interactive, peer-led, social marketing environmental intervention to aid older adolescents in effectively managing weight through improved dietary quality, increased physical activity, and improved stress management.

Fruved is led by UT’s REACH lab, but three other universities will also be implementing Fruved on their campuses. At each university, graduate and undergraduate students from departments across campus will be working together on activities including:

  • Student-led games and challenges held on campus promoting healthy lifestyles
  • Carrot, tomato, grape, banana, and bean characters promoting healthy events across campus
  • On campus activities including cooking lessons, healthy food carts, yoga classes, relay races to promote physical activity, workshops on time management, and other activities that students want to bring to campus to make it a healthier place
  • Town hall meetings to allow students, organizations, and administrations dialogue and find solutions to make the campus healthier


The 4-H approach to “learn by doing” is at the heart of this project. Youth, 9-10 years old, will learn the importance of a healthful lifestyle by doing activities that contribute to good health.  Through the iCook 4-H program youth will collaborate with their primary meal preparer to develop cooking skills and increase and enhance family mealtimes and physical activity. Culinary skills and physical activity of youth will be increased to help prevent childhood obesity.  Childhood obesity, a critical public health concern, is a multifactorial problem. In 2008, 19.6% of children 6-11 years old were obese. Researchers have identified lack of parental education in nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, availability of high-caloric foods, and scarcity of healthful foods as contributing to the obesity crisis. Decreased frequency of family meals has been associated with low socioeconomic status and overweight in youth.  The 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity emphasized that solutions for the next generation will result from educating children on nutrition and healthful living.  The iCook 4-H program is a 5-state partnership among researchers and Extension faculty who will use a community-based participatory approach to reduce childhood obesity in rural, low-income populations.  The objective is to test whether a 24-month intervention, based on building foundational skills for culinary proficiency and increasing family meals and physical activity, can positively impact the body mass index of youth compared to a control condition.  The project will include youth-adult dyads cooking and being physically active together.  4-H curricula, Fast Foods and Youth in Motion, will be modified for iCook. To add interest and enthusiasm, youth will use a website developed for the study to share short videos to demonstrate their learning at home.  The website will be an interactive format for personalized and customized learning through information sharing, blogging, chatting, goal setting and tracking progress.  Family dyads (n=500) will be recruited, randomized into control and treatment groups, and assessed at 0, 4, 12, and 24 months.  Outcome measures for youth include physical measurements, 3-day activity records, diet quality, cooking knowledge, family meal characteristics, and quality of life.  Accelerometer data will be gathered on 25% of youth.  Outcome measures for adults include kitchen proficiency, attitudes and practices on child feeding and obesity proneness, family mealtime characteristics and quality of life.  The intervention program includes 6, two-hour sessions for the dyads in the first year, followed in the second and third year with continuous website activity.  iCook will be tested for dissemination and sustainability during the fourth year of the grant with 120 family dyads.  Evaluation tools will be developed to accompany iCook to assess program effectiveness.  The intervention is reciprocal in nature with dyads modeling behavior for each other to build foundational skills for healthful lifestyles for obesity prevention. iCook 4-H is currently in its fifth year and currently undergoing data analysis.

Co-PIs on the iCook project- Colby S. University of Tennessee, Franzen  L. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kattelmann K. South Dakota State University Olfert M. West Virginia University, and White A. University of Maine