Nutrition Education Reaches People Where They Live

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OSU Extension county offices tailor nutrition education to meet local needs.

Across Oregon, two OSU Extension programs help families make healthy food choices, stretch food dollars, and prepare food safely. Funded in part by USDA, the largest of the programs, SNAP-Ed, provides nutrition education to families enrolled in the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, administered through the Oregon Department of Human Services.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all program. OSU Extension county offices tailor nutrition education to meet local needs. In rural areas, for example, people sometimes are wary of government agencies and more likely to rely on neighbors for information, according to Patty Case, the OSU Extension coordinator in Klamath County.

“If you are considered a trusted source of information, people will come to you for help and share their experience with their friends,” she said.

Reaching parents through their children is another way that SNAP-Ed programs are making a difference for families in need. In the “Think What You Drink” class that Case teaches in the Klamath schools, kids challenged to drink less soda report that their parents participate in the challenge too.

Such is also the case for a growing population of Somali Bantu refugees; classes their children take in after-school programs have helped break the ice, according to Lynn Steele, OSU Extension instructor in the Portland metro area. “The Somali women are interested. I’ve had an initial class with them, and they’ve asked us to come in and see what their diet is like,” she said.

Cultural understanding is the key to reaching Hispanic families in the Portland area. In Latin America, community leaders are trained to promote health in their area. Providence Health Systems uses this model, and Steele trains the health promoters in nutrition and food safety.

To expand into the most densely populated regions of Oregon, OSU also receives funds from the USDA through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

Janice Smiley, an OSU Extension nutrition educator in Washington County, said the program has been a stable source of funding with a proven record of positive behavior change and reduced health care costs for limited-resource families. Multiple generations of Russian immigrants have learned about nutrition in their own language thanks to the combined efforts of both programs. Smiley notes progress with the next generation also, as mothers bring their teenage daughters with them to the classes.

Web resources:

Healthy Recipes provides recipes especially for food stamp eligible households, and emergency food recipients.

Eat Well for Less provides information on healthy nutrition, food safety, and strategies for saving money.

Food for Oregon is a database of community food resources such as community gardens, nutrition education programs, faith-based efforts, community kitchens, farmers' markets, food policy councils, and advocacy organizations.

Oregon Nutrition Education Program where OSU Extension Family and Community Health Program provides nutrition tips, recipes and activities for families.

Published in: Food Systems, People, Health