Auburn, Alabama—For more than 50 years, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has been an integral part of Family and Consumer Science with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. EFNEP teaches limited-resource individuals how to improve their dietary practices and become more effective managers of available resources.
“EFNEP, a USDA flagship nutrition education program, is strategically poised to address some of Alabama’s most pressing needs including food insecurity, low birthweight, and childhood obesity,” says Jovita Lewis, EFNEP Coordinator.
The adult component of EFNEP focuses on educational programs to enhance the quality of families’ nutrition. Programs for adults include: Eating Smart Being Active and Today’s Mom. Once graduated from EFNEP, families have opportunities to participate in other Extension programs.
Eating Smart Being Active
In 2015, 29 EFNEP educators in 31 Alabama counties taught heads of households how to choose foods with the lowest costs and how to better utilize food resources such and WIC, SNAP benefits, food dollars and gardens, so as not to run out of money for food before the end of the month. Menu planning, food budgeting, MyPlate, and grocery store lists helped 42 percent of EFNEP graduates to run out of food less often before the end of the month.
In Alabama, EFNEP is committed to reducing the infant mortality rate through the Today’s Mom instruction . One way to ensure that babies celebrate their first birthday is to collaborate with partners such as the health department, doctors and other healthcare providers to help impoverished moms-to-be maintain healthy diets and weight during pregnancy. At program exit, 98 percent of Today’s Mom graduates delivered healthy weight babies. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight increases the likelihood of successful birth outcomes.
The youth component of EFNEP focuses on nutrition education to contribute to personal development of youth from limited-resource families. Programs for youth are from the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) and include: Jump Into Health! for kindergarteners, Taking Off for 4th graders, and Kids Club for grades 5-8.
CATCH: Jump Into Health!, Taking Off and Kids Club
Through school enrichment, short-term programs and after-school programming, 5, 982 Alabama children and youth in grades kindergarten and 4 to 8 participated in CATCH to increase nutrition education and physical activity levels. After 1,548 lessons and more than 35,000 contacts, 87 percent of children and youth improved their abilities to choose foods according to federal dietary guidelines, while 52 percent improved their physical activity practices. Making wise nutrition choices and increasing physical activity helps to prevent childhood obesity.
In Alabama, EFNEP receives a $1,983,700 federal appropriation, provides programs in 31 counties at 558 sites, and has 443 community partnerships.
In 2015, EFNEP was the winner of two awards from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS). These included the Communication Award for Internet Education Technology, EFNEP 50th Anniversary website and the Communication Award for its educational publication, EFNEP Creed Bookmark.