Nutrition program expanding in 20 Ohio counties

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A community nutrition program geared toward low-income families with children is expanding its reach.

Beginning in October 2015, Ohio’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), offered in 20 Ohio counties, is redoubling its efforts to offer more classes in community centers, libraries, food pantries, churches and other facilities that are convenient to the people it serves, said Maria Carmen Lambea, program director.

EFNEP is a weekly series of eight nutrition education workshops, coordinated by Ohio State University Extension and federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Participants gather in small, informal groups of about six to 12 people to learn and talk about:

  • Making healthy food choices.
  • Managing food dollars.
  • Understanding food labels.
  • Keeping food safe.
  • Choosing nutritious snacks.
  • Balancing a healthy diet with physical activity.

The free EFNEP classes are intended specifically for limited-income adults who have the responsibility to feed children, Lambea said, including older adults who are raising grandchildren and other nontraditional households with children. The program also provides a youth program offered through local schools, as well as specialized programs for pregnant women and new mothers, she said.

More, better

Between October 2013 through September 2014, EFNEP reached nearly 4,500 participants in Ohio, primarily at EFNEP workshops hosted by local health departments, housing agencies or other community partners. Participant evaluations showed that 91 percent of participants improved their nutrition practices; 85 percent improved their food management practices, including planning meals and comparing prices; 62 percent improved their food safety practices; 39 percent increased their daily activity; and 32 percent ate more vegetables.

“We will continue to work with local agencies to offer the program, but we also want to reach out and offer additional meetings at what we call ‘open sites,’” Lambea said. In doing so, program leaders hope to increase the number of participants in 2015-16 by at least 10 percent.

“We want to reach people who may not ever step foot in an agency,” Lambea said. “We want to meet in new neighborhoods, where it will be easy for people to come to the class and even bring their friends and family who also have children at home and could benefit from the program.”

At the end of the series, participants receive a certificate of completion. Some have used this certificate on a resume during a job search or use it in court documents to help regain custody of children.

“For some people, this certificate carries a lot of importance,” Lambea said.

In Ohio, EFNEP is offered in Butler, Clark, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Jackson, Lawrence, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Portage, Ross, Scioto, Stark, Summit and Warren counties.

For more information, contact the Extension offices located in those counties (locate an office at extension.osu.edu/lao), see the Ohio EFNEP program’s website at fcs.osu.edu/nutrition/efnep/, or call Lambea at 614-292-6402.

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