The UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (FNP) empowers Floridians with limited resources to take control of their health. The program teaches people how to eat healthy on a budget and to get physically active in order to reduce the risk of obesity and chronic disease. The program offers free nutrition education in schools, child care centers, and in communities. It also works to improve access to healthy foods and change the environment in which adults and children make choices about food and fitness. Currently it is offered in 40 Florida counties, including St. Johns.
The program has been teaching St. Johns county youth and adults since the inception of FNP, 1996. The program provides direct and indirect education in local food pantries, title one schools, after school programs such as the Boys and Girls club, council on aging, homes for pregnant teens, mental health and rehabilitiation facilities, and many more. On average, approximately 650 students and parents per month receive direction nutrition education. Currently, two nutrition educators, Kathy Ponce and Susan Layfield Valentine teach at area sites including Hastings and West Augustine. The curriculum includes food demonstrations, gardening and hands-on activities. Most of the area title one schools immensely enjoy the gardening aspect of the program, which includes hydroponics, aeroponics, container and outdoor beds. Both educators prepare a healthy food demonstration made with the fresh harvest that students have grown from seed.
Many positive comments and behavioral change have been documented after a series of in-depth programming. The program highlights healthy eating habits, exercise, food safety and cooking on a budget. St. Johns County usually ranks top in health outcomes. Both nutrition educators have a very dedicated approach to their educational teaching and this county has seen the wonderful outcomes and behavior changes due to both outstanding educators.