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Wednesday November 22nd 2017

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ReThink Your Drink, Every Sip Counts! Backyard Initiative and the Minneapolis Health Department Partnership

BY ANDRE GRAHAM, BYI TEENS Project

The Minneapolis Health Department (MHD) launched the ReThink Your Drink, Every Sip Counts! campaign to encourage people and places to choose healthier beverages over sugary drinks. MHD partnered with several community organizations to help raise awareness about the link between frequent sugary drink consumption and negative health effects to help to promote healthier beverage options.  One of these partners was the Backyard Initiative (BYI).

During the summer, MHD worked with ten organizations that serve youth with the goal of empowering youth to become sugary drink experts and healthier beverage ambassadors. As a result, they worked directly with the BYI Teens Entering Existing Networking Systems (TEENS) Project. The BYI TEENS Project specializes in youth engagement and sharing resources with community youth so the partnership was a perfect fit.

Because this was the first formal partnership between the BYI and MHD, it was somewhat of an experimental testing ground. We are proud and thrilled to report that the partnership turned out to be a huge success. The BYI TEENS Project delivered a phenomenal performance in executing their responsibilities and deliverables.

The partnership consisted of the BYI TEENS Project leaders first completing a training with MHD to learn about sugary drinks and the campaign before planning, organizing, and implementing two events. The first event was at Phelps Park where ten kids, ages 10 to 15, participated in an hour of activities and dialog. ReThink Your Drink information and materials assisted the BYI TEENS Project leaders in engaging the kids and educating them about the truths of sugary drinks and their “not-so-sweet” effects on the body. It was impressive how the kids stayed engaged and focused.  You could tell by their responses and comments they were internalizing the information.

The second event was at the Midtown Global Market (MGM). It consisted of the BYI TEENS Project setting up a table in front of the BYI Resource Center and again, using ReThink Your Drink information and materials to engage and educate community members about sugar-sweetened beverages. This event was also an impressive success. That afternoon, MGM was very busy and full of diversity, so it was really easy for the BYI TEENS Project to engage over 100 community members of all ages and cultures. MGM proved to be the perfect venue for the community education and exposure which the ReThink Your Drink campaign is aiming.

Overall, the partnership was a wonderful success and learning experience. It demonstrated that: (1) The BYI is a valuable resource for community engagement and partnership; (2) The BYI TEENS Project is well versed in youth engagement and planning, organizing, and implementing events; and (3) MGM is a valuable asset for community health and a perfect venue for health education. Because of the effectiveness and success of this partnership, the BYI hopes, in the future, there will be opportunities for more and bigger partnership with the MHD and other organizations to assist them in engaging the residents of our community in health education with the goal 0to improve community health.

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