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Beneficial Bites Research Grant

Beneficial Bites Selected For Research

Almost seven years ago, Barron County developed a nutrition education program called Beneficial Bites. Through the years, we have featured traditional foods like cabbage, wild rice, cranberries, oranges, and blueberries, as well as not so common foods like quinoa, avocado, pomegranate, turmeric, and ginger. The concept behind Beneficial Bites is simple…it’s easier to incorporate healthier foods into our daily lives if we don’t have to change everything all at once. In a nutshell, the premise in creating Beneficial Bites…small changes each month result in big changes over time. Beneficial Bites is bite-sized nutrition education.  

About a year ago, we were approached by researchers from UW-Madison about the possibility of studying Beneficial Bites to determine if people will actually change their eating habits in a way that provides health benefits.  I’m sure some of you are probably thinking “Who cares? Why on earth should we study this and who is paying for this research?”

These are logical questions and something we should all be concerned about, but first a little background information.  
  • Fact 1: There are more people over the age of 60 than ever before in history and there will be more every year for at least another 20 years!
  • Fact 2: The nutrition program (meals on wheels and senior dining) is mandated to provide nutrition related service to people age 60 or better.
  • Fact 3: Nutrition related service includes more than meals…it also requires that part of the funding be spent on nutrition education.
  • Fact 4: The funding for the nutrition program has never kept pace with inflation and there is no indication that will change.
Basically, more people combined with no additional funding to serve them means we have to find ways to keep people healthier longer. That’s why Beneficial Bites was created. However, just because it was created for that purpose, doesn’t mean it is actually fulfilling it. 

We need to make sure what we are doing will actually help people stay healthier longer. If it isn’t, then we need to find a better way to deliver on that promise because the program is partially funded with taxpayer dollars. And we have a responsibility and desire to be good stewards of those funds.  

The funding for this research is coming from multiple places, with many agencies providing “in-kind” contributions as well as financial.  “In-kind” means that no money is directly given for the grant but an agency might be providing supplies, office space, telephone, computer, etc.  It might also mean that some staff time is devoted to activities related to the grant. 
Your ADRC is providing in-kind support AND is receiving grant funding to design a variation of Beneficial Bites. We will be hiring a part-time dietitian to glean the best from the 7 years of Beneficial Bites to create a hybrid program. Participants of this hybrid Beneficial Bites will be part of the research. Their eating habits and overall health indicators will be studied to see if they benefit from the hybrid program.

There are other very important reasons to study this. Some of the funding that ADRC’s and aging offices across the country receive can only be spent on health promotion activities that have been shown through research to result in health benefits. Programs like Stepping On, Living Well with Chronic Conditions, Healthy Living With Diabetes, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, A Matter of Balance, Strong Women, etc are examples of programs these funds can be spent on.  Ironically, even though nutrition can impact health in so many ways, there are no nationally approved nutrition education programs that these special funds can be used for. This research on Beneficial Bites could mean that Barron County is the birthplace of a nutrition education program that goes national! 

Certainly, this study is just the beginning of the research into Beneficial Bites, but we have to say that it wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar for research if it weren’t for all of the folks who attend these each month!