NOTE: Journalists wishing to contact members of the Healthy Youth Program or any member of the Linus Pauling Institute can consult our media contact page.

girl in garden

Providing trusted public outreach on the role of diet, lifestyle, and micronutrients in promoting optimal health, preventing disease, and increasing healthspan has been a major commitment of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) since its inception at Oregon State University in 1996. As part of LPI’s public outreach, the Healthy Youth Program was founded in 2009 by Simone Frei. As the Healthy Youth Program Manager from 2009–2015, Simone was committed to providing evidence-based and high-quality programs to all youth (preschool through grade 12) and families, ensuring that every family in need will be able to receive full or partial scholarships for their children. Through her leadership, we developed our Program Philosophy and Core Values, which drive the Healthy Youth Program to this day. Our vision is for a community of healthy, happy, and active children and families.

Our Program Philosophy

The Healthy Youth Program is a wellness and healthy lifestyle program. For us, wellness and a healthy lifestyle include physical, mental, and social well-being. It is our goal to help children and families improve their dietary intake and increase their level of physical activity. In addition, a central focus of our programs are family and peer relationships and interactions. We believe that children and families don’t live in a vacuum – children are part of families and families are part of communities. Therefore, it is important for us to support children and their families to develop healthy family and peer relationships and to grow as individuals to reach their full potential. 

Healthy Youth Program’s Core Values:

  • Recognize that wellness and healthy lifestyle include physical, mental and social well-being
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect
  • Be committed to excellence in all programs and initiatives undertaken
  • Provide access to our programs for all youth and families in the community
  • Link healthy lifestyles to a healthy and sustainable environment through our vegetable gardens
  • Use garden spaces for hands-on education
  • Involve communities and respond to community needs in all programming
  • Promote fun exercise for children and adults of all ages
  • Role-model healthy eating habits and supportive and affirming parent-child and peer interactions
  • Maintain child- and family centered programming, focusing on the strengths of children and families, not on their weaknesses
  • Build on the assets every child and family brings to any relationship and situation

What Makes us Unique

  • Our educational materials are built upon the LPI’s latest scientific research on vitamins, minerals and other compounds found in the diet to help people live a full and productive life, free of disease.
  • Providing high-quality programming with low youth-to-adult ratios is an integral part of all our programs.
  • We strive to make our programs financially feasible to all by offering full and partial scholarships for our youth programs and offering free and low-cost family programs
  • We strive to accommodate the needs of every child.
  • We are part of the OSU community and actively involved in the Corvallis community, allowing us to build partnerships and collaborations across multiple sectors.
  • We provide education and career-related opportunities for OSU students through our internship and volunteer positions.
  • We strive to make our programs easily accessible by offering them in convenient locations in the community.
  • We have an open-door policy and invite parents to visit or participate in all our programs.

Hidden Hunger

Healthy dietary choices and lifestyle habits help youth and families maintain a healthy body weight, reduce their risk of developing a chronic disease later in life, and attain optimum health. However, we cannot achieve optimum health if we are not providing the right nutrients in the right amounts to our body. Many families consume large quantities of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods high in macronutrients like fat, proteins, and carbohydrates, but lacking many of the vitamins and nutritionally-essential minerals (micronutrients) needed on a daily basis. They may satisfy their overt hunger by eating macronutrients, but don’t satisfy their body’s need for vitamins and minerals to function at its best. Failing to provide the body with the much-needed vitamins and minerals may lead to micronutrient inadequacies or hiddenhunger. The symptoms of hidden hunger are often not obvious, but they prevent our bodies from functioning at an optimum level. Micronutrient inadequacies may cause inefficient energy metabolism or poor immune function, resulting in lack of energy or fatigue and increased susceptibility to a cold or the flu. Therefore, teaching youth and their families about the importance of eating foods rich in micronutrients is a major focus of all our nutrition education programs. 

Childhood Overweight and Obesity in the United States

According to data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 32 percent of 2 to 19 year-old children are overweight or obese (23 million children) and 17 percent are obese (12 million children). 

Most experts agree that overconsumption of calories and physical inactivity are the main contributing factors to the obesity problem. There is a widespread need to promote better eating habits among America’s children. There is no quick fix to address this problem, but “if we don’t reverse the epidemic, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation” (F as in Fat: 2012 Report, Trust for America’s Health[PDF]). Research shows that a strategy of primary prevention can help improve children’s health and reduce health care costs, and is a realistic and achievable goal “if there is a sufficient investment in effective programs and policies” (F as in Fat: 2012 Report, Trust for America’s Health[PDF]).