AgCenter campaign: Move toward healthier lives

The LSU AgCenter is using billboards, banners and posters to encourage people in low-income areas to take easy steps toward healthier lives.

The campaign has three messages: eat more fruits and vegetables, get more active, and talk more with your family, said Diane Sasser, director of an AgCenter education program for people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

She said she hopes getting those messages into places people see easily and often will get them thinking about their own health habits.

The first billboards went up in June. The banners and posters can be displayed in schools, stores and parish extension offices.

The campaign will last about 18 months, featuring a new message every few months, Sasser said.

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education program, called SNAP-Ed, is paying for the campaign.

Obesity is an even bigger problem among low-income people than among people who make more money.

Sasser said small steps can start the path toward a healthier lifestyle, but those steps can be difficult for low-income people whose budgets and food choices often are limited.

She said reaching out to elementary and secondary schools is crucial, Sasser said.

“If young people realize the importance of making good eating choices and getting physical activity, they can bring that knowledge home to their families,” she said. “The opposite is true as well because their parents might participate in SNAP-Ed programs that teach them how to be a role model for their children. The billboards reinforce those lessons.”

That is one reason the campaign is promoting family engagement. Family conversations about health show children good health is a priority, Sasser said.

Families with children, however, are often busy, which makes easy, affordable choices like fast food tempting. While it is OK to eat those foods sometimes, people should be conscious of what exactly they are eating even then.

“It’s not about steering them away from fast food restaurants,” Sasser said. “We want to make them aware of healthier options like apple slices that they can choose even in those situations. The goal is to get them actively thinking about what they eat.”