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About the Food and Nutrition Information Center

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Title:Eat Smart, Be Fit, Maryland!
Pub. date: December 2004 - 2014, updated regularly
Includes: Web site
Audience: Parents, Children, Adults
Language: English
Description:The University of Maryland's Public Health Informatics Research Laboratory and Maryland Cooperative Extension have collaborated on a nutrition education demonstration project featuring the 'Eat Smart, Be Fit, Maryland!' website, a health promotion tool developed as part of the Eat Smart, Be Fit, Maryland! project. This website features nutrition and physical activity information and tools, as well as food budgeting resources and local information for Marylanders.
Funding Source: Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program (FSNEP ), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Developer: University of Maryland, Maryland Cooperative Extension
Pilot Testing: In 2004, we developed a web portal. Using data collected during an initial needs assessment process, the project team determined priority topical areas for inclusion in the web portal and a thematic concept and name for the website. Three rounds of concept and message testing with the target population were conducted. Based on the results from the first round of testing, we created three website designs. We then obtained feedback from community members on all aspects of the website prototype, including its usability, appeal, and appropriateness. We then continued development and testing through two additional rounds, culminating in the launch of the web portal in December 2004.

The Eat Smart, Be Fit, Maryland Website was intended to provide users with tailored information and activities to promote skills that will help them navigate nutrition and physical activity resources in their respective communities. From 2004-2006, we piloted three intervention arms in three Maryland Counties, including an in-home computer intervention, community access intervention, and communications campaign to promote awareness of and collect feedback on the website. Two counties also served as controls. Based on effectiveness studies during this time, we selected a combined community approach for disseminating the website, and have now expanded promotion of the site statewide. All website resources were also expanded to reflect a statewide audience. Process and outcome evaluation efforts are being conducted to assess effectiveness. We are also collecting data to measure website user's behavior change over time, and user satisfaction.

Reviewers Comments: The ‘Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!’ Web site is designed to teach users how to be healthy. Facts on healthy eating, proper exercise and food budgeting are featured on informational pages, worksheets, and games throughout the site. Based on the topics presented and information contained in the fact sheets, the target audience is low income parents. Although some information is specific to Maryland residents, including links to weekly grocery store circulars, community events and a community directory, most of the information is generic and can be used nationwide. Similarly, states may choose to use this web site as a template to develop their own portal of information for residents. It is necessary for any users to have access to a computer to stay connected with the site.

The majority of the site cannot be accessed without registering. Registration is free and requires the user to provide an email address, password, county of residence, zip code and birth date. You do not have to be a Maryland resident to register. A short “Web site Tour” will show users what can be accessed by registering and leads right to the registration form.

Once registered, users are encouraged to fill out several health profiles. The nutrition profile asks questions about general eating habits, height and weight, and satisfaction with current diet; the physical activity profile asks general questions about exercise habits, and the food budgeting profile asks how often techniques are used to mitigate money spent on food. Some of the questions in the profile may be confusing and difficult for low literate people.

After completing their health profiles, users will have access to a multitude of new web pages on topics related to food budgeting, nutrition and health. Specific subject pages include meal planning, cooking, food budgeting, time management, weight maintenance, staying active, feeding children and babies, fruits and vegetables, and food safety. Registered users will also have access to previous poll questions and answers, newsletter archives (which are distributed via email on a monthly basis) and offered the opportunity to “ask the coach” a nutrition question and see what others have already asked the coach. “The coach” is actually a team of two health educators at the University of Maryland. Naming this section “ask the health educators” or “ask the experts” may be a better idea, as “ask the coach” may convey the idea that sports coaches are health experts.

There are two separate games on the Web site, the Bean Game, and the Bargain Hunt game. Both are designed to teach users necessary food budgeting skills. In the Bean Game, the player is given a certain number of beans and is asked to choose their meals for a day using that number of beans as their total budget. Each meal has several food options for the player to pick from, and each food option is worth a varying number of beans. The player cannot use more beans than they have. After choosing their meals for the day, the player is given feedback on the thriftiness and healthiness of his or her choices. The feedback does not always accurately evaluate the healthiness of the meal chosen.

The Bargain Hunt game allows players to choose a scenario (the month they are shopping, for how many people and for how many weeks the food needs to last) and then given a monetary budget. They are then asked to choose whether they would like to use a list or not, and if they would like to shop in a convenience store or a grocery store. The players can then choose the items they would like to purchase from a given list, and specify the size of the item and whether they would rather a brand name or generic item. The nutrition information and price of each item is included to help make purchasing decisions. At the end of the game or after the players decide to checkout, they are given a separate fat score, sodium score, fiber score, fruit and vegetable score and budgeting score. This educational game would be helpful when teaching someone how to shop on a budget, but may require additional information either orally or on the Web site on how to improve shopping skills and raise the final score.

The design of this Web site is both attractive and functional. The main page is nicely laid out, with a large amount of information organized into neat sections and boxes. This makes it easy to navigate between subsequent pages. Most pages contain plenty of white space with not too much text. The pictures are colorful and add to the attractiveness of the site, although it may have even more appeal if more photographs and less clip art were used. The site appears to be updated on a regular basis, with daily poll questions and a “tip of the day”. Overall, this Web site is a unique and creative tool for food stamp educators to use with their participants.

View/download files: 
Link to Web site:
Contact the Distributor:
    Distributor: Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program / University of Maryland Extension
    Contact: Lisa Lachenmayr
    Mail: 10632 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Suite 435
Columbia, MD 21044
    Ordering: or contact Erin Braunscheidel at
    Cost: 0.00 per
    Avail. in Qty: No

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