GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If the version of the 2018 Farm Bill that has been put forth by the United States House of Representatives passes into law, it would provide more opportunities for low-income Floridians to adopt healthier habits and reduce their risk of chronic diseases, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.
The proposed bill gives Land Grant universities such as UF a leading role in implementing and managing the federal SNAP-Education program, which serves residents eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
In Florida, UF/IFAS Extension delivers SNAP-Education through the Family Nutrition Program, which is offered in 40 counties across the state.
“If the Farm Bill passes in its current form, UF/IFAS Extension will be able to help more people take control of their health,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension.
“People who go through our programs leave with concrete strategies for improving their wellbeing, whether that’s preparing meals with more fresh produce or knowing how to read a nutrition facts label,” Place said. “They are also shown how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on a limited budget.”
Those who complete UF/IFAS Extension FNP classes report increased physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Adults also report being more likely to read nutrition facts labels and compare prices before purchasing food.
The Family Nutrition Program partners with local organizations to serve the needs of area residents, Place said.
“We are teaching classes and making a difference in schools, food banks, farmers markets, senior centers and more,” he said.
- UF/IFAS Extension FNP classes in Alachua County teach participants in the kitchen, where they practice knife skills, basic cooking techniques and food safety. At the end of each class, students take home free groceries to practice what they have just learned at home.
- The UF/IFAS Extension FNP in Dixie County has helped revitalize the Future Farmers of America program at Ruth Rains Middle School, helping students start their own hydroponic garden. Nutrition education and gardening instruction reaches about 250 middle school students each year.
- In Leon County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP partnered with the Frenchtown Farmers Market to offer a gardening and nutrition workshop to the market’s visitors. The workshop included a cooking demonstration using seasonal ingredients like those available from the market’s vendors.
- The UF/IFAS Extension FNP in Martin County helped students at J.D. Parker understand where their food comes from by inviting local farmers to speak and using a school garden to demonstrate how food is grown.
- In Osceola County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP started a community garden at Oak Leaf Landings, a senior housing facility. In addition to receiving nutrition education, Oak Leaf residents tend the garden and reap the benefit of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets.
- In Palm Beach County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP established six gardens in partnership with several local organizations, including senior centers and childcare facilities. In addition to receiving nutrition education, the more than 900 adults and children served by these organizations care for the garden and reap the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets.
- In Pasco County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP has been teaching monthly nutrition education classes to residents at AHEPA 489 Apartments, a low-income senior community. FNP has also revitalized the facility’s vegetable garden and planted fruit trees on the property. Residents take care of the orchard and garden, and reap the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets.
- In Pinellas County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP, in partnership with several community organizations, has taught food-insecure families how to grow their own fresh produce in container gardens. FNP also provides nutrition education and food preparation classes where participants learn how to make healthy meals with the food that they have grown.
- In St. Lucie County, UF/IFAS Extension FNP has partnered with Mustard Seed Ministries to bring nutrition education to the Mustard Seed Ministries food pantry. Everyone who passes through the pantry on the days that FNP is there gets a free cooking demonstration and nutrition information.
According to a 2017 report, UF/IFAS Extension FNP has installed 278 gardens in schools, childcare centers and communities statewide.
To learn more about UF/IFAS Extension nutrition education in your community, go to uffnp.org.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences 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 works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.