The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family


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Friday Letter 2014-07-11

Please note: this is an archived email message and may not display as originally intended. Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

Dear Friends,

Summer is a great time to be outdoors in Idaho, enjoying the natural beauty, but also participating in a healthy lifestyle. And, as I mentioned in my previous letter, it’s been a great time to travel around our state, observing the impact that the University has in every region.

An extraordinary example of fitness was the recent IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene triathlon. A large number of Vandals completed the grueling triathlon while 50 Vandal volunteers, organized by Andrea Barlow, helped with the event, which was sponsored in part by the university. All the volunteers, including Mary Beth and I, admired the tenacity of these contestants.

Handing out electrolytes at a race of this caliber is exciting, but the University engages in more fundamental roles in helping Idaho residents eat smarter and exercise more. For example, our Eat Smart Idaho and Healthy Living programs reach across the state through UI Extension. Our Healthy Living program builds on two U.S. Department of Agriculture initiatives that began in the late 1970s. Our efforts, led by Paul McCauley and Kristen Hansen, focus on helping those with low incomes make wise nutritional and physical activity choices for the healthiest results.

Currently, 27 nutrition advisors work in 38 Idaho counties to benefit more than 20,000 Idahoans each year. A 2012 study showed 25 percent to 50 percent of participants adopted healthier diets, including eating more fruit and fresh vegetables. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences advisors have also assisted food pantry organizations that help those in need to make ends meet.

Thanks to a grant from the National 4-H Council in conjunction with Con-Agra Corporation, our 4-H team led by Maureen Toomey joined in a related effort with the Healthy Living program in collaboration with Eat Smart Idaho.

The 4-H Food Smart Families effort delivers a healthy living program to students in first through twelfth grades. Over the summer, nearly 2,500 students in 19 counties will be led through 10 sessions including nutrition basics and meal preparation, which culminate in both a community service event, and a family meal in which they share what they’ve learned.

Twenty-one teen advocates support 10 college interns and 27 nutrition advisors who lead these classes. Several of those volunteers shared their enthusiasm for the program at the 4-H Teen Conference in Moscow recently. Other community partners extend the reach and success of these efforts: summer migrant education programs in Canyon and Owyhee counties, Boys and Girls Clubs of Twin Falls and Ada counties, the Caldwell YMCA, Parks and Recreation Departments in Boise and Emmett, St. Luke’s Hospital in Donnelley, Coeur d’Alene 4 Kids, and other school and community organizations across the state.

“Our partners are essential to success,” said Maureen Toomey, Healthy Living coordinator. “Once the students get a chance to work with the food they really get excited about it. It’s amazing how well they respond.”

The UI and its partners are providing vital life skills to participants. Better nutrition and better health lead to lifelong improvements in life quality and in productivity as well as reductions in medical costs. Additionally, some program participants have used their experience to gain new jobs.

It’s all part of serving Idaho and its citizens — it’s about making a hand off that contributes to success.

President Chuck Staben portrait


Chuck Staben

P.S. Next month, I’ll join in another challenge by biking a portion of the 400-mile “Ride Idaho” event with Guillermo Ordorica, the new Mexican consul in Boise. I hope some of you will join us.
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