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January 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center's newsletter, where we'll share our latest research, education, and outreach highlights.

For those of you unfamiliar with the FRC, our transdisciplinary research efforts focus on family health and well being, and one of our strengths is our ability to translate research findings to policy and practice while training the next generation of academics, practitioners, and leaders. The FRC is housed in Doris Kelley Christopher Hall.  

Dr. Barbara Fiese,
FRC Director

Grant Awarded and New Project Created

In December, FRC post-doctorial research associate Kate Speirs was awarded a National Institute of Food and Agriculture Post-Doctoral Fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture. The $150,000 grant will fund the Improving Feeding Practices in Childcare Settings project for the next two years. The project will study early childhood obesity and seek to enhance the nutrition and health of young children by improving feeding practices in child care and educational settings.

Because many preschool-aged children eat a significant amount of meals while in non-parental care, early child care and education programs are influential for obesity prevention. However, a comprehensive understanding of child care providers' feeding practices is lacking. This project will combine research, extension, and education into a multi-pronged approach to better understand these feeding practices. After completing the research, the project will develop online materials to help child care providers use responsive feeding practices and will be used in a transdiciplinary research methods course to educate undergraduate students about research and extension programming.

Latest Mealtime Minutes

The FRC's newest Mealtime Minute PSAs, which are funded by the Pampered Chef, Ltd., help solve family mealtime challenges like meal preparation and limiting screen time. The two new PSAs have made nearly 170 million impressions since being produced.

New Sprouts Coordinator

The FRC is pleased to welcome Elizabeth Villegas as project coordinator of Sprouts, a project that’s developing a healthy habits curriculum to be used in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. As a former HDFS 494 student, she has experience with the Sprouts program, helping to develop and teach the curriculum. Having enjoyed the project as a student, Elizabeth is excited to be involved from a coordinator’s perspective. "What drew me back was being able to work with undergrads, the kids in the classrooms, and the curriculum," says Villegas. "I feel I'll have an advantage because I experienced the program at the undergrad level, so I know how it works, and I know how a typical lesson goes having taught them myself."

Prior to coming back to the University of Illinois, Elizabeth served abroad for a year as a teacher and student activities coordinator in Bogota, Colombia. Her main functions consisted of planning after-school activities, retreats, and different social events as well as teaching classes. She loved building relationships with her students there and appreciated the overall cultural experience. "I learned a lot about teaching," she says. "And I'm half Colombian, so it was really great to see parts of my culture.” After her teaching abroad experience was completed, Villegas worked as a drug rehabilitation counselor in California, which she describes as a very intense but worthwhile experience. 

In the Media
"Kid Food" Pestering May Negatively Affect Healthy Home Cooking

Pester power for sweet, calorie-dense foods that have been developed for and marketed specifically to children might be taking a toll on the dinnertime dynamic. Read more in this Washington Post article featuring FRC Director Dr. Barbara Fiese. 

Study Explores Less Sleep, Higher BMIs for Preschoolers

Post-doctoral research associate Kate Spiers was the lead author of an article published in online journal Sleep Medicine. Speirs and co-authors Janet M. Liechty and Chi-Fang Wu followed 247 mother-child pairs from STRONG Kids, a study coordinated by the FRC, for one year. According to the study, the majority of preschoolers may not be getting the amount of sleep they need each night, placing them at higher risk of being overweight or obese within a year. Click here to read the full press release.

Overcoming Barriers to Family Mealtimes

For many families, dining in has become more burden than blessing as they deal with things like picky eating, fighting siblings, coming up with new meal plans, and balancing work/life stress. Dr. Barbara Fiese wrote a blog supporting the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences's first annual Dine-In DayOn December 3rd, more than 100,000 people committed to preparing and eating a healthy meal together. Additionally, Dr. Fiese gave a live interview about the importance of family mealtimes and effective mealtime strategies that families can use.

Upcoming Events
Next Annual Report

The FRC's annual report will be released this month. A digital copy of the report will be placed here