Parents and guardians across America work hard everyday to put food in the mouths of their families. We all have to make choices in the foods we eat and provide for our children. This process of planning, shopping, and preparing healthy meals is challenging, but especially for those that have limited income and resources. These families that struggle for food security put themselves at risk for a host of nutrition-related chronic diseases including obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Over 26% of Leon County’s population is living below the poverty level, which is much higher than the 16.5% of Florida’s total population. In addition, a relationship between income level and overweight status has been established. Of the adults in our county that make less than $25,000 per year, over 70% of them are overweight or obese. These are scary statistics that bring the problems of poor nutrition and limited-income to light.
Having access to nutritious food is a good first step toward putting healthy meals on the family’s table. Surprisingly, only 77% of eligible Floridians in 2010 asked for and received assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Sadly, it seems that a very large number of eligible Floridians are not getting the help that they need to feed their families.
How can parents and caregivers make the most of their food budget and make healthier choices when planning, shopping, and preparing meals? This is where nutrition education can play a key role to ultimately improve the diet and health of the total family. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is offered in over 10 counties in Florida, including Leon County, and is designed to empower families to practice and adopt positive nutrition and lifestyle behaviors. Classes are free and consist of a series of 8 interactive lessons that teach adult participants how to shop for healthy foods, plan and cook meals, save money on food purchases, and incorporate physical activity into their lives.
Classes are offered throughout the county at various community sites. If you are interested in starting a class with your group, church, or worksite, or to find out more information about EFNEP, contact Amy Mullins, Registered Dietitian and Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at UF IFAS Leon County Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-606-5203. Learn more about SNAP eligibility and benefits by visiting http://www.fns.usda.gov/