An interactive wellness and nutrition education program to inspire children to lead healthier lives is now poised to grow as it moves under the umbrella of Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute. The program, known as “Zest Quest,” was launched in 2004 to encourage children and their families to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. The Cliffs Communities and its foundations, led by founder and CEO Jim Anthony, have made a $3 million pledge and given all rights to the Zest Quest program and name to Clemson University. The Youth Learning Institute, a unit of Clemson Public Service Activities based in Pickens, will manage the program. The pilot program has been offered at 11 elementary schools in the upstate and one in Asheville, North Carolina. Zest Quest Program Director Patsy Smith says the program outlines seven daily goals for youngsters from kindergarten through 5th grade.
“We try to teach children to eat three servings of vegetables, eat two servings of fruit everyday, and limit sugary drinks,” she says. Smith adds that youngsters are also encouraged to “get 60 minutes of physical activity each day, limit screen time (watching tv, on computer, playing video games) to 60 minutes a day or less, get 9 hours of sleep, and eat breakfast everyday.”
The program also includes adult challenges for faculty, staff, and parents that includes getting 30 minutes of exercise per day, being tobacco free, and getting at lest seven hours of sleep each night.
Smith says by joining the Clemson University Youth Learning Institute the program will achieve expansion in the very near future. “The youth Learning institute has sites across the state and they do summer programming and camps at those locations,” she says. “It will allow us to immediately put Zest Quest into those summer camps and reach possibly 10,000 young people across the state this summer through summer programming.”
Smith says joining Clemson University will open up Zest Quest to new avenues of funding and partnerships that will help to enhance and grow the program. “Because we are now part of a university, federal dollars that were once denied to us are accessible to us, possibly, so we are working on that even now. We are also hoping to expand into possibly partnerships with EFNEP which is the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in South Carolina as well as the 4-H program.”
Smith says she is looking forward confidently to expanding the program statewide and beyond. “Certainly we want to take it statewide first because it’s our home. We know the numbers. We know that South Carolina is very at risk where health is concerned so we want to cover the state first. After that hopefully we can become a national program.”