Food Hero Bingo fosters healthy behavior changes outside of school

Screen shot of a partial Food Hero Bingo at Home card.

Many Oregon families struggle to get their kids to build healthy habits outside of school. In Oregon, nearly 12% youth ages 10 to 17 are obese, ranking 43rd in the United States and District of Columbia, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In response, Food Hero Bingo was created to promote comprehensive wellness for children and their families. Introduced as a pilot program in 2017, the project has been updated each year to best serve Oregon families. Through this fun school-led campaign, Food Hero is fostering healthy behavior changes.

Food Hero is a statewide initiative of the Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program and was developed by the Oregon State University Extension Service in English and Spanish. All the recipes are tested according to criteria, such as overall flavor, color and texture. Food Hero meals are low-cost and feature easy to find ingredients, easy to follow instructions, and minimal preparation time.

The Spring Break Bingo project promotes 25 activities encouraging healthy eating, physical activity, and less screen time. The cards have both English and Spanish options. In 2018, Food Hero gave cutting boards as prizes. Students who completed five or more activities and returned their cards to their teacher received a prize.

In 2019, students from 56 schools in 20 Oregon counties took home bingo cards. Among the returned 1,504 cards, 45% percent reported completing their bingo card with a sibling and 26% reported completing their card alone.

The activities the students most commonly reported completing included:

  • 1,384 students ate breakfast
  • 1,316 students had dinner with their family
  • 1,143 students chose a fruit or vegetable for a snack
  • 1,075 students walked with family for at least 15 minutes
  • 782 students helped plan one meal
  • 774 students helped cook a meal
  • 606 students went grocery shopping and picked out a new fruit or vegetable to try

In 2020, Food Hero adapted the Spring Break Bingo project to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Called Bingo at Home, the activities were modified to align with Centers for Disease Control social-distancing guidelines. For example, “Share fruit with a friend” was changed to “Eat two different colors of fruit in one day.” As families continue to spend more time at home, Food Hero is continuing to develop new programs, projects, and materials to meet the needs of target audiences.

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