Climate Change Needs Behavior Change

Organization Name: 
Kids in Nutrition

Entry Overview

General Information
First Name: 
Last Name: 
Organization type: 
  • Nonprofit
Email Address:
Santa Barbara
United States
34° 25' 14.9916" N, 119° 41' 53.484" W
Sectors impacted: 
  • Food and agriculture
  • Land use and ecosystems
Community type: 
  • Suburban
Population impacted: 
Context Analysis
Describe the context in which you are operating: 
The current United States conventional food system’s impact on climate change, as well as an increasingly inadequate nutritional diet are contributing to both unhealthy and unsustainable dietary habits. In particular, high levels of meat consumption have been associated with poor human and planetary health. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “ Meat consumption is rising annually as human populations grow and affluence increase...[resulting in] major negative consequences for land and water use and environmental change. Although meat is a concentrated source of nutrients for low-income families, it also enhances the risks of chronic ill health, such as from colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease.” 1 A sustainable diet has been defined as, “a pattern of eating that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.” 2 Countries, such as Germany
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt: 
We developed Kids in Nutrition (KIN), a student-run fiscally sponsored 501(c)(3) health education program running in various regions of California and the city of Boston, to help ignite a movement of young conscious consumers. Initially, KIN was developed to solely educate children on how to lead active and healthy lives through fun and interactive nutrition education. Due to climate change’s increasingly imminent threat on natural systems, we have re-focused our mission to encompass education on not only nutritional diets, but on specific foods and their relationship to climate change and sustainability.In response to the food sustainability scientific report omission in the 2015 American dietary guidelines, Kids in Nutrition developed an experimental pilot lesson in January 2018, focusing on sustainable diets with endorsement from the Harvard Kennedy School and guidance from the Harvard Planetary Health Alliance (PHA). 4 The lesson was implemented in May 2018 at the Goleta Boys and
Type of intervention implemented (category descriptions)
Select all that apply: 
  • Emotional appeals
  • Social incentives
  • Choice architecture
Describe your behavioral intervention: 
This new, proposed curriculum will act as a means to help transition the younger generation to consume more healthful and sustainable diets. Through our current behavioral change approach, we hope to empower youth to be more conscious of how their dietary choices impact not only their own health, but the world around them. The current nutrition curriculum consists of a unique seven-lesson interactive curriculum, taught once a week for one hour. 7 Each week, a new topic is explored, actively engaging the students with visuals,hands on activities, group discussions, and outdoor exercises. We develop our activities with the main intent of creating an association between fun and healthy behaviors. Each lesson lines up with the California and Massachusetts State Board of Education’s Content Standards to supplement and reinforce current classroom activities. 8 We have ensured adoption of the intended behaviors through research (described below), follow-ups with teachers and parents, and our KINcentive program (described below). In addition, peer-led health initiatives have been growing in popularity as peer interactions exert a powerful social influence on behavioral change by making topics relevant and engaging to other youth. 5 It has been suggested that it may be particularly beneficial when peer-mentors are slightly older than the target student population. 6 A program that teaches kids how to make better food choices and why they are making those choices through a student
As needed, please explain the type of intervention in more detail.: 
Social Incentives: Since adolescent children are at the most neuroplastic stage of their lives, dietary habits may be more impressionable during the early school years. The first step to changing a deeply rooted social norm, such as the American fast food diet, is to provide education at a young age in an easy to digest and interactive way. Choice architecture : We have developed the KINcentive program in order to enable our students to apply what they have learned into their daily lives. Take-home challenges are given at the end of each lesson to be completed with their parent/s or guardian/s by the next lesson. If successfully completed, each student receives a sticker badge for that lesson’s challenge. KIN has implemented the KINcentive
Describe your implementation: 
Our model is also highly replicable and scalable as university students themselves are enabled to start-up chapters at a relatively low cost. Through this, we mobilize university students to be advocates for sustainable diet change in their local communities. As our movement continues to grow on the elementary school and university levels, we hope to hold more influence in policy change with the eventual goal of having sustainable diet education incorporated in America’s health education framework. The lessons in the proposed sustainable diet curriculum will cover a variety of relevant sustainable diet topics with a primary focus placed on the environment and animals in the food system, as outlined below: - Environment in the food system. - Communities in the food system. - Consumers and workers in the food system. - Animals in the food system. - The individual and the food system. Groups of 5 university student volunteers carpool each week to a local elementary school with the respective set of materials necessary for that week’s lesson. Each group visits the same classroom for the entirety of the program in order to foster strong relationships amongst the elementary school students and instructor volunteers. In a given week, there are around ten to fifteen groups traveling to different classrooms. The instructor volunteers lead interactive lessons consisting of games, posters, group work, drawing, skits, physical activities, and weekly challenges. In the past, we have educated over two thousand students in over one hundred classrooms. We have a large volunteer base of around four hundred instructors, chosen from a pool of over seven hundred applicants. A huge obstacle we have face is that we have a surplus of instructor volunteers with not enough elementary school classrooms to accommodate all. However, as we continue to grow and increase our operational capacity, we have been able to improve our educational outreach by taking on more instructor volunteers
External connections: 
Although education is necessary, it is not sufficient on its own. The local environment and policy play a major role in instilling lasting behavioral change. Youth need affordable access to healthful and sustainable foods in their schools and community. We have recently developed a presentation highlighting the need for sustainable diet education and policy change at the district level and presented to the Santa Barbara Unified and Goleta Union School Boards. Since then, we have been building stronger partnerships with these local school boards and food service directors to improve access to foods that align with our curriculum in school cafeterias.In the past year, we have partnered with the Harvard Planetary Health Alliance and Walker Study Group, two groups that has been instrumental in providing informational and financial resources for the development of the pilot lesson and curriculum. Various experts in the field, including Samuel Myers, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard and Director of the Planetary Health Alliance; Gina McCarthy, former EPA director; and Sara Bleich, Senior Policy Advisor to the USDA and the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, have provided support for KIN and highlighted the importance of advocating on the local policy level. With this advice, we have been working on submitting a comment to the 2019 CA health education framework on incorporating food sustainability into nutrition education.
Who adopted the desired behaviors and to what degree?: 
KIN began testing its program effectiveness in April 2015 under the mentorship of Professor Mary Hegarty, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (UCSB). Pre- and post-tests were given to every student (K-2) to assess the program’s impact on nutritional knowledge and food preferences with an objective scoring system based on the Overall Nutrition Quality Index (ONQI). The index is peer-reviewed and supported by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. 11 Data was interpreted using SPSS (one-way ANOVA). These tests were also designed to determine the influence of age and gender on nutritional decision making. Our research showed a statistically significant effect on both nutritional knowledge and self-reported food preferences after completion of the seven-week KIN nutrition curriculum, implying that the program was effective at its intended mission of increasing nutritional awareness. We plan to administer a similar pre & post-test to the 5th grade students that participate
How did you impact natural resource use and greenhouse gas emissions?: 
Our main intended impact with this proposed curriculum is to ignite a movement of conscious consumers to transition away from more resource-intensive foods and move toward diets that optimize both health and sustainability. Similar to the aforementioned KIN nutrition study methodology, data will be collected before & after the program on food-climate knowledge and preference. The data will be analyzed using a dietary environmental index (DEX) database developed at Tufts University, an indicator that assesses nutritional quality with environmental impact. 14 This indicator measures an environmental impact score (EIS), a standardized aggregate of land use, marine eutrophication, greenhouse gas emissions, and water resource depletion measured through life cycle assessment, as well as nutrient density using foods from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) with NRF9.3, a nutrient profiling scoring system. With these two indicators, the DEX values have been
What were some of the resulting co-benefits?: 
As KIN was initially developed to foster healthy habits in youth, we aim to improve the nutritional status of the communities in which we serve. As previously mentioned, we are currently working with the school board and food service director to improve access in schools to more nutritious and sustainable food for our students. We also foster stronger social connections centered around food in the communities we teach and we plan to facilitate stronger ties to nutritious and sustainable food as we continue to grow KIN. On top of educating youth, we also plan events to raise awareness of our mission in the university and local community. In the Santa Barbara community, we have participated in events like Earth Day, engaging youth and parents on food and nutrition through fun and interactive activities. 15 We have recently started engaging more youth weekly at the Santa Barbara public library. Every year at UCSB, we partner with the Associated Students Food Bank to plan Produce First
Replication and Scale
As our project is entirely-student run, our financial model revolves around funding from the university. All of our current chapters are registered as official school organizations and thus receive annual nominal funding. On top of this, each chapter team holds fundraisers, such as t-shirt selling, and applies for local community grants for additional funding. Each director team is also taught to train first and second year students on the financial model in order to ensure sustainability program. KIN has received several initial grants in the past which enabled us to develop & implement the nutrition curriculum in the California and Boston chapters. As KIN is currently fiscally sponsored by Cogostar Foundation, we apply for general grants
Return on investment: 
On average, it costs around $800 annually to start-up and maintain a chapter. Funding is used to cover the cost of curriculum creation, travel reimbursements, and marketing materials. One complete set of materials is around $400. With proper material maintenance, one set of materials can educate roughly five hundred elementary school students. As chapters increase their operational capacity, another materials set may be required. Travel reimbursements and marketing materials generally amount to $300 and $100 per year, respectively. Curriculum development requires no funding as it is completed on a volunteer basis. The results from the aforementioned research were promising and showed that the initial time and money investment were worth it.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 
Kids in Nutrition can be replicated in any standing university. In the past two years, we have been recruiting students to start-up chapters at their respective university. Each team of directors is provided with both written & video instructions on how to successfully develop a chapter. This includes creation of materials, curriculum purchases, volunteer recruitment, & local program implementation. As previously mentioned, each startup chapter requires $400 for an initial set of materials & an additional $400 once they begin marketing & travel. Our eight developed chapters will slowly phase into incorporating the sustainable diet curriculum and moving forward, all new chapters will implement both the nutrition and sustainable diet lesson plans. Our long-term goal is to establish chapters at every standing university in America. 17 2014-18 Chapters: -UC Santa Barbara chapter -UC Santa Cruz chapter -UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, & UC Berkeley chapter -Northeastern &Tufts chapter

Contest Partners

conservation international logo
the nature conservancy logo
UNDP logo
world wildlife fund logo

Contest Sponsors

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Humanize Institute