- Associated Press - Sunday, February 21, 2016

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Billboards featuring one of Auburn’s most famous faces are popping up across the state as part of a campaign to encourage healthy eating.

Former Auburn Tigers and the NFL’s most valuable player Cam Newton is a spokesman for Team FNV, a social marketing campaign promoting fruits and veggies, the Opelika-Auburn News (https://bit.ly/21dk8gL) reported. The campaign is expected to generate almost 35 million impressions or views on Alabamians during its 12 weeks.

Newton was a Heisman Trophy winner and is currently the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

“We have this year 73 billboards right now across the state, in 53 different counties,” said Katie Funderburk, nutrition and evaluation coordinator for the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, which is leading the campaign along with the Nutrition Education Program, nationally funded by SNAP-Ed.

Billboards will be in Chambers, Macon, Tallapoosa, Jefferson and Mobile counties, along with dozens of others. Newton will even appear on billboards in Tuscaloosa.

“They are spread out across the state,” said Maggie Lawrence with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “That ought to be interesting to see what people in Tuscaloosa think with Cam smiling down on them.”

The billboards boast witty advertisements for fruits and veggies, along with colorful art, and kicked off Jan. 1 in most counties.

The initial round of billboards featured Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry. Musician Nick Jonas, actress Kristen Bell, model Cindy Crawford and figure skater Michelle Kwan have also lent their faces to the Team FNV campaign.

Nearly 80 percent of the 53 counties are classified as rural, and Funderburk said the billboards were placed strategically in areas that have fewer resources and less access to healthy foods.

One of the goals of the campaign is to raise awareness and create appeal for fruits and vegetables in communities where SNAP-Ed hosts nutrition education programs, like Body Quest, a school-based obesity prevention initiative for third graders and their parents in low-income schools and communities across the state.

Last year, more than 6,000 third graders and 3,500 parents in more than 150 schools participated in Body Quest, according to an Auburn University press release.

“It’s where these celebrities endorse fruits and vegetables, and one of the celebrities that did that was Cam,” said Barbara Struempler, Extension leader for nutrition education programs and a professor in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences. “How could we not?”

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