Program helps bring nutrition education to low-income families in a practical, hands-on, applied way
Poor health disproportionately affects minority and low-income U.S. populations. According to Nevada’s 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey data, of the respondents with incomes less than $25,000 per year, 14 percent were told by a doctor, nurse or other health professional that they had experienced a heart attack; 11 percent were told they had coronary heart disease; 21 percent were told they had diabetes; 68 percent were overweight; and 47 percent were obese. Low-income families were the most vulnerable to both under nutrition and over consumption. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically emphasize consumption of low-fat, nutrient-dense foods; limited sugars; and increased physical activity. In contrast, food consumption research shows that low-income families often consume high-fat, high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. This is important because chronic disease and poor health disproportionately affect minority and low-income audiences.
In Nevada, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program is administered by University of Nevada, Reno to engage adults and youth to boost nutrition through building basic skills. Participants learn how to read food labels, save money on groceries, plan meals, safely handle food, make healthy food choices, and be more active. All materials are available in English and Spanish, and programming is done by paraprofessionals in classes at 25 schools and two Head Start locations in Las Vegas. The classes are 90 minutes long and taught weekly for 10 weeks. Since the 2016-2017 school year began, Extension reached 396 participants through adult and youth programming. Extension also conducts outreach activities and events, reaching a combined total of 558 families, of which 88 percent were Hispanic, 18 percent were Caucasian, and 12 percent were African American. Of these families, 71 percent had incomes at or below the poverty level.