Carrots for candy: The great Boy Scout experiment

Summer camp can be rife with memories of telling ghost stories by crackling campfires, hiking through shaded trails, gliding in a canoe across a sparkling lake – and candy – lots of candy – at the camp “trading post.”

It’s that candy that is a concern to the Boy Scouts of America. As rates of childhood obesity increase in the United States, the Boy Scouts organization wants its members to enjoy their camping experiences with wholesome, delicious meals and snacks.

How can they convince children to want to make healthy eating choices?

Enter, Penn State PRO Wellness at Penn State Children’s Hospital. PRO Wellness provides schools, communities and like-minded organizations with assistance in implementing evidence-based programming and tools to promote healthy eating and active living.

Jeanne Arnold, a Boy Scout National Executive Board member and Penn State Children’s Hospital donor, was asked to lead the Boy Scouts of America’s Presidential Task Force to address childhood obesity. To accomplish this, she asked PRO Wellness to partner with the scouts to craft a healthy eating strategy.

Last summer, PRO Wellness and the Boy Scouts launched a pilot project at Bashore Scout Reservation, the Pennsylvania Dutch Council’s summer residential camp in Lebanon County. This program reached about 1,100 scouts and 400 adults. Things went so well, that this summer, the scouts expanded the program to 14,000 scouts and 4,000 adults in camps nationwide including the Atlanta Area Council in Atlanta, the Grand Canyon Council in Phoenix, and the New Birth of Freedom Council in Mechanicsburg. In February 2018, PRO Wellness looks forward to presenting the success of the first two years at the American Camp Association National Meeting, says Erica Francis, senior project manager.

Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, PRO Wellness executive director, is excited about how well the partnership has been working and the positive effects on the boys.

“It’s been a wonderful collaboration, not only because Boy Scouts is an outstanding group, but they are passionate about doing this,” Kraschnewski said. “It takes a lot of courage, because it’s tough to make a change like this.”

Learn more about the partnership – and how it’s expanding across the U.S. – in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated September 05, 2017