The West Virginia University Extension Service is challenging West Virginians to stay hydrated with healthy drinks instead of sugar-packed drinks through a thirst-quenching campaign and Barbara Wolfe, WVU Health Educator is presenting the Rethink Your Drink activities throughout the county at events this summer.
Children at the Parsons and Davis Summer Foods sites are learning about the amounts of sugar in sweetened drinks, reading “Otter the Potter” to encourage water as their thirst-quenching drink and have made musical cards with a message to “Rethink Your Drink”. 4-H Campers also made fruit smoothie smashers as a part of the healthier drinks program.
The “Rethink Your Drink” initiative encourages people to drink more water and be better informed about how sugar-added drinks affect their health negatively and predisposes them to certain health risks such as obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
“There are negative health trends in West Virginia that need changed, and we’re here to help people do that,” said Elaine Bowen, WVU Extension Service health promotion specialist. “By empowering people to make smarter choices every day — something as simple as choosing water over soft drinks when reaching for a drink — we can make a significant impact in their overall health.”
The Rethink Your Drink campaign materials were developed by the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention branch of the California Department of Public Health. WVU Extension adopted the campaign in 2014, and mainly targeted areas along the Charleston-Huntington corridor. It has since expanded statewide. Extension agents and Family Nutrition Program staff have taken the program on the road, holding demonstrations at schools, 4-H camps, fairs and farmers markets.
Demonstrations include engaging and interactive games designed to have “contestants” visualize and identify the amounts of sugar in drinks. Refreshing “hydration stations” are also set up, featuring fruit infused water to sample and recipe cards to help people make the water at home.
According to Bowen, it is vital that children, adolescents and their parents are engaged with the program. In efforts to do so, a water drop shaped mascot, Quench, has been visiting local events and fairs to engage kids in fun learning about positive health messages.
“Youths and young families are the largest consumers of sugar-added drinks,” she said. “By teaching about proper hydration, we can begin to watch those health problems go down the drain, as a generation has tools to make smarter choices.”
Connecting the people of West Virginia to the University’s resources and programs is the primary goal of WVU Extension Service and its 55 offices throughout the state. Local experts, like WVU Extension’s agents and specialists, work to help improve the lifestyles and well-being of youths, workforces, communities, farms and businesses through trusted research in the counties in which they serve.