Cooperative Extension teaches low-income Delawareans about healthy eating

August 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Low-income families in Delaware looking for healthier food options and ways to lower their grocery bills have friends in University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, which offers two free programs aimed at educating low-income families and individuals on how to make healthier food choices without breaking the bank.

Sue Snider, Cooperative Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of animal and food sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the two programs are the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-ED).

EFNEP “has been making a difference in the lives of families with young children since 1969” and is “100 percent federally funded,” Snider said.

The nationwide program is available in all three counties of Delaware, with UD heading the programs in New Castle and Sussex counties and Delaware State University heading the program in Kent County.

Any low-income individual with children is eligible for the EFNEP program, and UD’s role is to provide trained paraprofessionals who teach people within specific communities about nutrition.

Snider said the paraprofessionals educate individuals on “the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the dairy and the protein group that make up a healthy diet. We talk about how to select and prepare low-cost items that belong in each group, we talk about how to safely handle them, and we talk about why they’re important to include.”

EFNEP also includes a summer program, in which Extension Scholars and summer interns who have learned from nutrition assistants head to summer camps to teach children — mainly 8-12 year olds — the merits of eating healthy. This year, the theme was “Boning up on Health” and it focused on the importance of calcium and physical activity to prevent osteoporosis and broken bones.

“Part of EFNEP is to work with children of low-income families and in Delaware we have chosen to do this mainly in the summer through various camps,” said Snider.

SNAP-ED program

The second program run by Cooperative Extension is SNAP-ED, which is the new name for food stamps, and this program targets low-income individuals who are not eligible for EFNEP. This includes single people or older individuals who no longer have children living at home.

SNAP-ED is available in all three counties, and the curriculum is similar to that of EFNEP but tweaked to cater to the needs of individuals without children.

Snider stressed that both of these programs are free to anyone who is interested and are also available in Spanish.

The programs are set up by the Extension program’s nutrition assistants and are usually held in conjunction with various agencies, community centers, housing developments, churches and other groups that are working with low-income individuals.

“This is a program that I wish we could offer to everybody in Delaware,” Snider said. “I think that anybody who is low-income could certainly benefit and feel special that they have this opportunity to take part in this particular program. It really, really gets at the heart of health and wellbeing, and eating appropriately.”

In a state in which 28 percent of adults are obese, according to a July report by the Trust for America’s Health in cooperation with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the more information for Delawareans about healthier meals, the better.

Snider said that if there is a group or an organization that works with a low-income target population that is interested in the program, or if there are individuals interested in the program, they should contact their county extension office at 302- 831-2506 for New Castle County, 302-730-4000 for Kent County, or 302-856-7303 for Sussex County, or contact the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at 302-831-2524.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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