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UF/IFAS, EFNEP Build Food Security Through Education, Demonstrations, Mobile Food Pantry

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. –You can’t have healthy cooking and eating habits if you’re food insecure. In today’s world, lack of access to nutritious food is a reality for millions of people.

In Jupiter, one program, which already combines the resources of a local mobile food pantry and nutrition education, has expanded to include a full line of tools and ingredients to fight food insecurity in low-income areas.

UF/IFAS EFNEP program assistant Joycelyn Sookram demonstrates a recipe for participants in the Marjorie S. Fisher Nutrition Drive Gets Cooking Program in Jupiter

The expanded effort, known as the Marjorie S. Fisher Nutrition Drive (MSF-ND) Gets Cooking Program, is offered through University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF IFAS), the UF/IFAS Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

The program is aimed at low-income parents of young children living in food-insecure areas of Jupiter.

“The food pantry delivers fresh produce and whole grains grown locally to participants and is coupled with an interactive recipe demonstration specifically designed to be culturally sensitive to the diversity of Palm Beach County residents,” said Danielle De Vries-Navarro, EFNEP agent at UF/IFAS Extension Palm Beach County.

An electric skillet, a series of multi-language cookbooks, and a multi-level nutrition series to promote healthy cooking and eating habits at home provide participants with a complete set of recipes, guides, and tools that agents observe is yielding positive results.

“Unlike other food distribution efforts complemented by nutrition education, the success of this approach is the seamless coordination between the Palm Beach County Food Bank and UF/IFAS Extension EFNEP, which ensures that food offerings are relevant to the nutrition education, reflect recipe demonstrations ingredients, and are culturally appropriate for participants’ preferences,” said De Vries-Navarro, who is a registered dietician.

UF/IFAS EFNEP program assistant Juan Sanchez leads a class of participants in the Marjorie S. Fisher Nutrition Drive Gets Cooking Program.

One sample recipe includes Arroz Integral, a typical Latin dish made with brown rice and vegetables that substitutes tofu for the traditional red meat, pork or poultry as its main source of protein.

The local produce is delivered in a refrigerated truck. To accommodate the diverse demographics of the community, an English, Spanish or Haitian-Creole speaking ServSafe® certified EFNEP peer educator facilitates the nutrition education lessons. The program uses the Eating Smart • Being Active curriculum, which teaches participants how to alter eating behaviors and food practices while effectively managing food resources. At the end of the program series, participants who attended at least six lessons graduated and received a certificate of completion from UF/IFAS.

From a $2,500 grant awarded by Healthier Jupiter and Jupiter Medical Center in 2018, 33 Hispanic day laborers attending El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center, participated in the program last fall.

“Many of the participants are agricultural workers living in multi-dwelling homes with limited access to cooking facilities,” added De Vries-Navarro. “We provided food demonstrations of healthy one-skillet meals from a newly designed MSF-ND Gets Cooking Cookbook.”

Results from a follow-up survey of the program indicated the efficacy of the program reporting that out of 33 graduates, 73% (24 of 33) were cooking dinner in their home, 91% (30 of 33) indicated a multi-dwelling home), more times a week because of the education and self-efficacy in cooking with an electric skillet.

In 2019 an additional $2,500 from Heathier Jupiter was awarded to continue the program in Spring 2020.

“We plan to work with an additional 40 day laborers (limited-resource adults with children living in food-insecure areas of Jupiter, many whom live in multi-dwelling homes with limited cooking facilities) at El Sol in spring 2020.,” said De Vries-Navarro,

For more information on this program, call De Vries-Navarro of UF/IFAS Extension Palm Beach at 561-233-1773.

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By: Lourdes Rodriguez, 954-577-6363 office, 954-242-8439 mobile, rodriguezl@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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