Author: Kelley Axelson, Director, Live Well @ Work at the UC San Diego Center for Community Health
As the backbone organization for the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI), Community Health Improvement Partners has the opportunity to work with exceptional partners each year to discover new ways to make healthy options more accessible for children and their families. The San Diego County Fair represents a unique opportunity to promote healthy choices given the volume of San Diegans visiting each year. The fair draws approximately 1.5 million individuals annually and is a highlight of the summer for its family-friendly entertainment, but it is also an example of an environment that is not typically known for healthy food choices.
In recent years, the San Diego County Fair has worked to improve healthy options available to guests by partnering with Community Health Improvement Partners, UC San Diego Center for Community Health and the County of San Diego to generate awareness of the Fair’s healthier food alternatives and promote the Childhood Obesity Initiative’s 5210 Every Day! Campaign. 5210 Every Day! highlights simple daily steps families can take to improve health (i.e., 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks).
In 2019, 5210 Every Day! was incorporated into a San Diego County Fair scavenger hunt that included a map of the fairgrounds with step counts to areas where kids had the opportunity to be active all while exploring the fair and learning about ways to improve health. Kids and their families could complete the route for a total of 1,480 steps while learning about the 5210 Every Day! campaign at four stations along the way including: The California Grown Exhibit for fruits and veggies, the Creative Youth Exhibit for limiting recreational screen time and the Livestock Barn for physical activity.
Kids received prizes for their efforts, including a collapsible water bottle to promote water consumption, to serve as a regular reminder of simple strategies for better health. This successful partnership between the Fair, UC San Diego, and CHIP led to the distribution of more than 1,500 prizes and materials and a twist in the narrative that assumes summer fairs can only provide unhealthy options. Each year this partnership continues to flourish as the COI works to demonstrate that every environment can include healthy options, and that “fun” does not have to mean unhealthy.
Mother’s rooms for breastfeeding moms
The Fair also featured two lactation rooms thanks to resources provided by the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition. The rooms were quiet and included a nursing area, high chair, changing table and related amenities.
Step it up with walking and food maps
A San Diego County Fair walking map and healthy food map were created to show fair goers how to get more physically active and eat healthier at sdfair.com/healthier. Three heart-healthy walking routes took participants around the Fairgrounds to help attendees check off their 10,000 steps for the day.
All about agriculture
Participants could learn about growing their own fruits and veggies at free daily agriculture talks at The Farm and California Grown Exhibit, learn how honey is made from the San Diego Beekeeping Society and sample delicious locally-sourced gourmet food at the Farm to Table Dinner. Kids ages 6-11 could enjoy an educational shopping experience at Albertsons|Vons Kids Market Place where they could learn about the more than 400 agricultural commodities grown in California.