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A Family-Based Media Literacy Approach to Improving Family Nutrition

Project Narrative

Who we are: We are a team team from Washington State University and Extension and the University of Washington, collaborating with established 4-H community programs and WSU Extension SNAP-Ednutrition education experts.

WSU Extension SNAP-Ed

What we do: We are developing the first media literacy education program that provides sessions for parents and their children to attend together. The purpose is to help increase healthy food choices.

Whom we serve: Children ages 9-14 and their families, in five Washington State counties.

Why is this needed? Nearly 1 out of 3 U.S. children are either overweight or obese. Children may be more likely to choose unhealthy food after seeing food advertisements on TV or online. Seeing just one or two food ads can affect young children’s eating choices.

How is this program unique? Most educational programs that target school-age youth try to convince them to use less media, with limited success. This program teaches families to critically analyze marketing messages about food and also helps them find accurate information and use tools such as food labels.

Can I get the curriculum? After the field test of the curriculum is finished we will make the program widely available.

How can I get more information? Please contact Michelle Kistler (email:, phone: 509-335-3658).


6 sessions of interactive, engaging activities that address:

  • Advertisements on TV, mobile devices, print media, bus signs, newspapers, public relations campaigns, and more
  • Marketing strategies such as product branding, packaging, and placement
  • The food environment, such as how food is presented and the size of plates

Sample activities include:

  • Comparing and contrasting information found on a product’s packaging to that found on its Nutrition Facts
  • Deconstructing marketing examples, using FoodMania’s 5 W Marketing Questions as a guide for analysis and evaluation

Funding Agency

This project is supported by AFRI grant no. 2012-68001-19618 Childhood Obesity Prevention Program Area A2101.

Project Timeline

The project launched in 2012 and will run for five years, as follows:

Year 1: Focus groups and curriculum planning workshops
Year 2: Pilot test of curriculum
Years 3-4: Field test of family and youth-only versions of curriculum
Years 4-5: Follow-up surveys of family and youth participants and control groups
Year 5: Outreach for training and dissemination of the curriculum and research findings.


Austin, Erica Weintraub, et al. “The Role of Parents’ Critical Thinking About Media in Shaping Expectancies, Efficacy and Nutrition Behaviors for Families.” Health communication 30.12 (2015): 1256-1268.

Austin, E. W., Pinkleton, B. E., Chen, Y. C., & Austin, B. W. (2015). Processing of Sexual Media Messages Improves Due to Media Literacy Effects on Perceived Message Desirability. Mass Communication and Society, 18(4), 399-421.


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