EnviroMedia Principal and CEO Valerie Davis just returned from speaking at the Society for Nutrition Education National Conference, and she doesn’t want to keep it a secret.
Report from the Society for Nutrition Education National Conference, Kansas City
“We must no longer be known as ‘the best kept secret.’” That’s what USDA’s Dr. Cynthia Reeves Tuttle told a roomful of about 100 food and nutrition extension agents in Kansas City this weekend. So, I thought I’d do my part and write a blog about the group.
These extension agents were in town with about 500 nutrition-world colleagues for the annual conference of the Society for Nutrition Education. I was there to present a case study on our “Food Hero” work with the Oregon State University Extension Service, as part of a day-long Food and Nutrition Extension Education Workshop.
What the heck is “extension”?
USDA works with thousands of county and regional offices that are tied to more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, like OSU and Texas A&M. Dr. Reeves Tuttle’s USDA program, Health and Wellness, represents the federal arm of a trifecta grant partnership with state and local government to provide an array of education and services — from parenting and food safety to diabetes management and nutrition classes.
Simply put, extension provides millions of dollars in grants on the local level to improve public health, which reduces the health care burden.
Our OSU clients received grants to encourage SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) recipients to consume more fruits and vegetables. Started in 2009, the “Food Hero” campaign took hold quickly, building high awareness among the SNAP target audience in a short period of time. The campaign’s centerpiece is FoodHero.org, an online hub that provides fast, affordable and fun recipes and shopping lists for integrating more fruits and veggies into the meals of busy families. One of the most popular campaign components among the extension agents was the “Food Hero Makeover” — a series of reality webisodes that go inside the fridge and pantry of the Powell Family of Oregon to give some healthy food prep advice from a professional nutritionist (our client, Patty Case).
Why spread the word?
For an extension grant to work, federal funds must be matched on the state and local level. That can be tough, especially in this economy. So, decision-makers at all levels need to know more about the extension success stories that are happening around the country. This weekend, we learned about other wonderful nutrition education programs from the University of Missouri, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Colorado State University, Kansas State University, Iowa State University and Texas AgriLife Extension.
Finally, these USDA grants won’t do any good unless we apply for them. For more information, visit the Web page of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service) Health & Wellness programs spearheaded by Dr. Reeves Tuttle. If you’d like more information on Food Hero, send me an email at [email protected]