08/29/04 — Nutrition program celebrates 35 years

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Nutrition program celebrates 35 years

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 29, 2004 8:17 AM

Courtney Barnes credits a nutrition program sponsored by Cooperative Extension with making her a smarter student.

The 13-year-old Dillard Middle School student said she learned much through her participation in the Expanded Food Nutrition Education program, or EFNEP.

"Being a smart, intelligent young lady, it's my duty to learn about nutrition," she said. "My friends ask me how did I get so smart? I never miss the most important meal of the day, breakfast."

She said she encourages her friends to eat healthier and when friends come over, her mother helps by serving more nutritious snacks.

"Thanks to the 4-H for helping me and teaching me everything I know about it," she told those in the audience at Wayne Center on Friday to celebrate EFNEP's 35th anniversary.

The federally-funded program serves 43 counties in North Carolina. It has been in Wayne County all 35 years.

EFNEP was designed to assist low-income families, especially those with young children, to acquire the knowledge, skills, and behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets. Volunteers and professionals teach a series of lessons on stretching food dollars, improving eating habits, and practicing food safety.

Christine Smith, extension agent, said the program has had a rich history and tradition, with strong adult and youth programs.

"I'm glad today has arrived," she said of the anniversary milestone. "It's almost like birthing a baby."

She said there is a lot of pride in the collaboration with other agencies in the community to enroll 200 families in the program. Several of the community partners attended Friday's luncheon and were presented with certificates.

Mrs. Smith said EFNEP, a nationally-recognized program, has been called "the most effective federal program in increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables."

Marian Johnson, nutrition program assistant, has worked in the program for 13 years. She said it has been hard at times to measure success because there are so many people with needs.

"When I hear my Head Start mothers talk about the new recipes they're trying, when I see my young mothers at Seymour Johnson stretching their budgets to meet all their needs, or Hispanic mothers sharing recipes and talking about classes with others who aren't in the classes," she said, "these are all successes.

"I know that EFNEP and Cooperative Extension make a difference in the lives of many families in Wayne County."

Teresa Williams says she learned much from the program, enrolling in 2000 when her son started in early Head Start.

"The education I received has been very beneficial to me and my family," she said. "We used to eat out a lot. In the classes, I learned we weren't eating very nutritiously."

She said she has been taught about measuring food, how to prepare a meal, and finding ways to have nutritious snacks and meals.

"The EFNEP program opened my eyes to the fact that I was eating poorly, as so many people do," she said. "It would be wonderful if more people would see the value of eating healthy and attended such programs as EFNEP."