NIFA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program: Helping Consumers Maximize, and Safely Serve and Store the Food They Have

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Monday, March 15, 2021

NIFA Blog.  Nutrition Security.  Image of fruits and vegetables in a store, courtesy of Getty Images.

During the current pandemic, nutrition security has taken center stage. Families are struggling to put healthy food on the table. In these uncertain times, it’s important for communities to have the resources they need to help feed and nurture families.

People need the skills to prepare foods and know what food they can store in their limited space in difficult times. This skills gap was magnified during the pandemic. 

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) does just that. Using nutrition education to help low-income families and youths gain knowledge and skills for increased food security, the program also provides participants reliable information about food resource management in both food shopping and preparation skills, and helps create an understanding of food safety practices. 

The value of EFNEP was especially apparent in 2020, with many people under stay-at-home orders, stores shelves emptying quickly, and people wondering what they could prepare from the foods they had on hand. People already struggling financially were at greatest risk. 

EFNEP uses peer educators in rural and urban communities to help people learn to prepare and eat more nutritious foods to improve nutritional health and well-being. EFNEP combines hands-on learning, applied science, and program data to improve program effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability. EFNEP participants and peer educators report the great impact EFNEP has on their lives.

With butterflies in her stomach, one New Mexico State University (NMSU) peer educator volunteered to help develop English and Spanish video lessons for program participants who could no longer attend EFNEP classes. Then, social distancing became a requirement. 

The peer educator shared: “Our course was changed, and using technology for delivery of information and education is now of paramount significance. We are fortunate to have these videos in this time. The ‘tasty-style’ recipe videos are important because they can be used to demonstrate recipes from ingredients needed, through the cooking process, to the end result!” 

NMSU shared these videos with other institutions to ensure EFNEP delivery continuity.

A single mother in a public housing complex signed up for EFNEP with University of Puerto Rico to learn about offering healthy food to her four young children. She nearly quit, overwhelmed by responsibilities as a mother and student. During social distancing she continued classes remotely, overcame adversity and completed EFNEP. 

She is thrilled with the changes she has made: “Now I make sure I manage the budget for food purchases in a smart way.  I plan meals for my family and buy food from all the groups of My Plate.  I am more physically active and a good role model for my children. I put into practice the recommendations that the educator gave us to handle food in a safe way.” 

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

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