Monday March 15, 2021

During the current pandemic, food security was the focus. Families struggle to put healthy food on the table. In these uncertain times, it is important that communities have the resources they need to feed and feed families.

People need the skills to prepare food and know what foods to keep in tight spaces during difficult times. This skill gap was widened during the pandemic.

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) does just that. The program uses nutrition education to help low-income families and youth develop knowledge and skills to improve food security. It also provides participants with reliable information on how to use food resources in both shopping and food preparation, and helps them understand food safety practices.

The value of EFNEP became particularly evident in 2020: lots of people were ordered at home, shelves were emptied quickly, and people wondered what they could make with the food available. People who already had financial problems were most at risk.

EFNEP uses peer educators in rural and urban communities to help people prepare and eat more nutritious foods to improve diet health and wellbeing. EFNEP combines hands-on learning, applied science and program data to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of the program. EFNEP participants and peer educators share the huge impact EFNEP has had on their lives.

With butterflies in her stomach, a New Mexico State University (NMSU) peer educator volunteered to develop English and Spanish video courses for program participants who were no longer able to take EFNEP courses. Then social distancing became a requirement.

The Peer Educator said, “Our course has changed and the use of technology to provide information and education is now paramount. We are fortunate to have these videos during this time. The “yummy style” recipe videos are important as they can be used to demonstrate recipes from the ingredients needed, through the cooking process, to the final result! ”

NMSU has shared these videos with other institutions to ensure the continuity of the EFNEP deployment.

A single mother in a public housing complex signed up for EFNEP with the University of Puerto Rico to learn how to provide healthy foods to her four young children. She almost quit, overwhelmed by the responsibility as a mother and student. During social distancing, she continued teaching remotely, overcame adversity, and graduated from EFNEP.

She is thrilled with the changes she’s made: “Now I’m making sure I’m managing the grocery shopping budget in a smart way. I plan meals for my family and buy food from all of My Plate’s groups. I am more physically active and a good role model for my children. I have put into practice the recommendations that the educator gave us to handle food safely. ”

EFNEP is funded by the USDA’s National Food and Agriculture Institute (NIFA) in collaboration with 76 land-granting universities.

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