Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program provides solutions

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LUMBERTON — Have you ever wondered how you were going to feed your family on a limited budget and with limited resources?

Have you ever made a plan to become a healthier you only to fall through on those plans, resulting in no progress being made?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, the Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or EFNEP, provides answers to those questions and many others in our nutrition series.

The EFNEP is a federally funded nutrition education program that focuses on helping families “Eat Smart and Move More.” The program provides research-based information on how participants can improve their health now and in the future, better manage their food resources, and decrease food insecurity. Traditionally, classes are held in groups within the community that are normally face-to-face and very hands-on. However, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise within the county, EFNEP has now transitioned to offer the nutrition series virtually. As always, classes are free and welcome to all families that meet the guidelines.

Throughout the program participants are always learning new ways to become more physically active. Additionally, EFNEP teaches participants simple, affordable, and healthy recipes they can prepare at home. Adult learners are also educated on the importance of building a healthy plate, which promotes increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and eating foods that are low in fat, sugars, and sodium; all of which impact weight gain or loss. The program is also versatile, offering curriculums that are suitable not only for adults, but school-aged children and teenagers as well.

In general, the nutrition series lessons can range between six to 10 weeks. The classes typically last either 30 minutes or one hour depending on the needs of the group. For each lesson, not only are you learning those healthy recipes and how to become more physically active, you are also gaining real-life skills in the kitchen that can be applied at home. What I enjoy most about EFNEP is how empowered many of the participants feel once completing the program. Many walk away knowing they now have the resources they needed and greater knowledge to guide them in meeting their personal health goals.

Do not feel left out if your schedule does not allow you the time to participate in a regular series. The EFNEP provides many other opportunities to increase your understanding of nutrition such as “Cook with Me!” This is a hands-on virtual cooking experience that allows adult learners to cook in real time with their local Extension Program assistant.

As the year forges onward, EFNEP will continually strive to provide nutrition education virtually, and hopefully will be able to return to local in-person classes over time. Until then, I encourage you to visit the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center website and National EFNEP website to learn more about what the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program can do for you!

Ashley McRae is the Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276 or at [email protected]

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