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Families with limited resources may get UF/IFAS nutrition education virtually

Educators with the UF/IFAS Extension Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teach classes in-person. They prefer face-to-face education, and so do their clients. But soon, they may bring lessons to stakeholders where they live or work.

EFNEP agents are sending out a survey to clients in the four counties the program serves: Escambia, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. Through the survey, EFNEP wants to know if clients would use digital or other platforms to continue learning to improve their dietary intake.

EFNEP is a free nutrition education program for limited-resource families. Since 1969, EFNEP has worked in communities nationwide to teach participants skills and strategies to stretch their food dollar, prepare and eat nutritious meals and improve their overall health.

EFNEP reaches adult clients through GED classes and courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages, among other places. The program is delivered by program assistants, paraprofessional educators who teach within their own communities and are trained in nutrition education curriculum.

“Our classes are appealing because we meet them where they are – right in their classrooms – once a week, with information on how to make their lives healthier. We also bring tasty food and recipes they can try at home,” said Pamela Bradford, the EFNEP agent for UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. “We are also building relationships with them and inspiring confidence.”

“That is one reason we are eager to reconnect with them – even virtually,” she said. “With digital technology, we can still teach and demonstrate how to make healthy choices — and clients can learn about this when it’s convenient for them. We are still determining if real-time learning will be best, or if recorded videos or a hybrid of the two will work.”

For youth programs, EFNEP agents work in Title 1 classrooms among other places. In these schools, most students eat free or reduced-price lunches. EFNEP teaches these youth how to make healthier choices for themselves and how to influence their family members to mirror their choices.

“In the middle and high school classrooms, many of the students regularly prepare their own meals, so it is critical that they learn now how to make good choices,” Bradford said. “The move to online learning for this group might be easier. They have been e-learning for the last nine weeks of the school year and, for those with learning gaps, they’re learning more online during the summer. We are reaching out to partners all over Hillsborough County to see what their communication is with their clientele and how we can capitalize on that.”

Even before COVID-19 struck, UF/IFAS Extension EFNEP was designing and implementing new ways to teach nutrition curricula that might involve the Internet, digital apps and other platforms.

But then the coronavirus emerged and delayed implementation of the big-picture digital delivery, and it galvanized EFNEP to think of other ways teach nutrition, said Lacey Corrick, education and training specialist for UF/IFAS Extension EFNEP.

Learn more about EFNEP’s impact in Florida and connect with the program through its website.

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By: Brad Buck, 813-757-2224 (office); 352-875-2641 (cell); bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make
that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than
a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty
in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

ifas.ufl.edu  @UF_IFAS

 

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