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Posts Tagged: EFNEP

National Institute of Food and Ag honors two Californians at national conference

The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture presented awards to two California women for their role in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). EFNEP participant Johana Zacarias of Yolo County and Leah Sourbeer, the UCCE EFNEP Supervisor, where honored at the 50th Anniversary celebration at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Virginia, March 11-14.

Zacarias, a young mother of four children, participated in EFNEP at Cedar Lane Elementary School in Olivehurst, Calif. EFNEP educator Sonia Rodriguez suggested participants check with their doctors before making changes to their exercise and dietary habits. Zacarias visited her doctor and discovered she had early stage fatty liver disease.

Zacarias decided to change her eating habits and walk with her family fives day a week to avoid using medication for her condition. She eliminated sodas from her diet and began drinking more water. She cleaned unhealthful foods out her pantry and began organizing her grocery shopping using a list.

“I was 220 pounds, never exercised, nor controlled my diet,” Zacarias told an EFNEP educator. “Because of the changes I made coming to EFNEP, using the Walk Indoors CD, I now weigh 166 pounds, and my liver is normal.”

Zacarias said she enjoyed every class and is telling everyone in her family, friends and neighbors about her story and the opportunity to participate in EFNEP.

Johana Zacarias in before and after photos that show her success in the EFNEP program.

Sourbeer is the supervisor of seven EFNEP educators in two urban counties – Alameda and Contra Costa.

“She is highly respected by her staff, academic advisor, UCCE colleagues and outside partners,” wrote her colleagues in nominating Sourbeer for the honor.

Sourbeer developed online systems to enable educators to capture outcome data and success stories. She is proactive in seeking out professional development opportunities for herself and staff to enhance evidence-based nutrition knowledge, teaching methodologies, and social determinants of health.

“Leah demonstrates exceptional programmatic skills,” her nomination said. “She often mentors other EFNEP supervisors and represents EFNEP staff on two university-wide committees.”

EFNEP honoree Leah Sourbeer (right) is shown with EFNEP educator Sonia Rodriguez, left, who nominated Johana Zacarias, and Katie Panarella (center), director of UC ANR Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Program & Policy
EFNEP honoree Leah Sourbeer (right) is shown with EFNEP educator Sonia Rodriguez, left, who nominated Johana Zacarias, and Katie Panarella (center), director of UC ANR Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Program & Policy

Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 10:19 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program celebrates 50 years

For 50 years, UC Cooperative Extension EFNEP educators have taught Californians in their communities, at community centers, schools, Head Start preschools, churches and, sometimes, in their own homes how to lead a healthy life.

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is an essential resource in the fight against poverty, malnutrition and obesity. It was implemented to teach healthy eating habits to the most vulnerable in the country: children, and their adult caregivers, such as single mothers and fathers, immigrants, unemployed, and elderly grandparents. EFNEP helps people who, in the ups and downs of life, face a time without enough money for food.

EFNEP educators Inez Cisneros, Betty Miles, Emma Casas, Bertha Zermeno and Celia Guitierrez. Date unknown.

The EFNEP has many success stories to tell:

One day, just over two decades ago, Peru native Nelly Camacho, an EFNEP nutrition educator, met a young immigrant who was looking for a food bank.

In the City of Hayward in east Alameda County, the immigrant went to an EFNEP nutrition workshop where she was welcomed and invited to participate. Hesitating, she refused at first, claiming that she could not learn because she was illiterate.

"You do not have to know how to read and write, you can look and listen, and you'll learn to save money on food purchases," Camacho said. The immigrant not only learned about nutrition, but she also felt proud of herself. “It's the first time, in my whole life, that I have received a certificate,” she recalled the woman saying.

With the EFNEP workshops, families have learned to plan nutritious meals, increase physical activity, save money when buying food, practice safe handling of food, and prevent obesity with healthy lifestyles.

EFNEP now celebrates 50 years of service, and nutrition educators who teach classes to the community in schools, churches and community centers recollect stories that touch the heart. There are women, men and children who have learned to lead a healthy life because of EFNEP. Such as the case of a man in San Joaquin County who, on the verge of having heart surgery, found in healthy eating and exercise his best allies to elude the scalpel. And the child in a primary school in Contra Costa County, who after attending the nutrition workshop, remembered to put into practice what he learned. As soon as he ran into his nutrition instructor eating his vegetables, he said to himself: "Oh, I do not have any fruit or vegetables!" and ran to the salad bar.

Nutrition education assistant Celia Guitierrez EFNEP graduates in south central San Bernardino County. (June 1985)

The movement to teach healthy lifestyles is part of a major national effort whose seeds were planted in the late 1960s.

"The EFNEP program was piloted by the USDA in 1968, in response to increasing awareness of the link between poverty and malnutrition, and its deleterious impacts on the nation's children,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “The EFNEP program sought – and still seeks – to influence in positive ways the nutrition and physical activity of low-income families, particularly those with young children. From the outset, EFNEP has used an innovative peer-education model that is embedded in communities.”

A professional historian, Hayden-Smith points out that EFNEP was conceived as part of President Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society” movement, an ambitious set of domestic programs which sought to eliminate poverty, increase racial equity, and improve the environment. Although the EFNEP program is directed by the USDA, it sought not only to reach rural families, but also families who lived in the nation's growing urban areas.

"Based on the success of the pilot programs, EFNEP was funded permanently in 1969, through Smith-Lever funds included in the nation's Farm Bill," Hayden-Smith said.

So, in the middle of the Apollo 11 era and when man first landed on the moon, EFNEP was born. It is delivered in the Golden State by UC Cooperative Extension.

Alameda was one of the first counties where the EFNEP program began, and for its implementation, it recruited nutrition educators, most of whom were homemakers who received training from the UCCE experts.

"They originally thought that advisors could do that program, and then they realized that they really needed community people, who know the community, who can relate to the people in the community and could speak their language and were aware of certain cultural sensitivities, and that is when they started actually hiring what they called in those days nutrition aides. They designated at that time that these educators should be from the community, familiar with the community and could relate to the community, and also be role models for other people in the community," said Mary Blackburn, a nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor.

UCCE nutrition expert Mary Blackburn.

EFNEP is currently considered one of the most successful preventative health programs. Research indicates that for every dollar invested in the nutrition program, $8.34 is saved in health care costs.

"As an EFNEP educator, I worked with people who were in a drug rehabilitation program. One day between the fifth and sixth classes, a man approached me and said, 'You know I'm thrilled that you came to this class; I had heart problems, blocked arteries, and I had been told that I would need surgery, but the doctors said that if I continue with these changes I might not need the operation," said Anna Martin, a San Joaquin County nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor who started as an EFNEP educator 30 years ago. "I do not know what happened to that man, but the important thing is that he learned that his health depended on the changes we talked about in class."

Anna Martin, UC nutrition expert based in San Joaquin County.

When EFNEP started there were no communication tools like those of today. There were no computers in homes, no cell phones in the pockets. Educators started knocking on doors in their neighborhoods, something they still do today.

"The first challenge was to get to know the community and build trust," Martin said. "Developing that trust means you need to go out and meet the directors of the programs. You need to work at health fairs. You need to get your face, your name and who you are out in the community. And then, when you give classes, you must make sure that you are always doing it consistently, giving the participants a certificate at the end and later checking to see how they are doing."

EFNEP continues to be relevant to the audiences it serves, and it continues to be a community program taught by educators who live in the communities where they work.

"I live near the areas where I taught,” said Adán Osoria, an EFNEP educator in Contra Costa County. “You can see me in stores, when I'm eating. They know that I am a real person in the community, and I have similar experiences with which they can relate,"

Osoria is bilingual, a recent college graduate and he is taking the nutrition message to elementary and high school students full of energy. It's not easy, but he manages.

"(The children) are enthusiastic about what they are learning, they talk with their parents about what they have learned and give out the brochures I give them. And in public places, they ask me, ‘Oh, are you the nutrition educator? My son always talks about this and what he likes,'” Osoria said.

EFNEP currently has 10 advisors, 8 supervisors, and 35 nutrition educators. The workshops are offered in 24 of California's 58 counties. It is a comprehensive program, and educators must learn several lessons that have catchy names: “Eating Smart, Being Active,” “Let's Eat Smart and Play Hard Together,” “My Amazing Body,” “Happy Healthy Me.”

"One of the biggest challenges I had when I started was to review all the curricula we had to offer. There are more than 20 lessons only for elementary school. So, at the beginning, I felt it was a lot, but the more I studied, the more I learned them and now I know them like the back of my hand," Osoria said.

In the promotion of healthy eating, battles have to be fought on different fronts, and for that, a team of UCCE experts is conducting surveys and evaluating the factors that prevent people from eating healthy.

"One of the challenges I face when I work with students is that I am essentially talking about healthy foods, but as soon as the bell rings and they leave school, the communities in which we teach are surrounded by fast food. Whether it's a liquor store or convenience store where the healthy foods we talk about in the nutrition workshops are not an option," said Eli Figueroa, a nutrition educator in Contra Costa County.

Home economist Mary Marshall conducts EFNEP training session for refugees enrolled in English class. (November 1982)
View a video series below with personal experiences shared by our UC EFNEP educators:

Adan Osoria, Community Nutrition Educator, Contra Costa County


Eli Figueroa, Community Nutrition Educator, Contra Costa County


Nelly Camacho, Nutrition Educator, Alameda County


Myriam Acevedo, Community Education Specialist, Riverside County


Clara Wilshire, EFNEP Family Nutrition Program Coordinator, San Bernardino County


Sua Vang, Community Health Specialist, Fresno County

Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 10:19 AM
Tags: Anna Martin (1), EFNEP (10), Mary Blackburn (1)
Focus Area Tags: Food

A Sacramento coalition wants to serve 1 million healthy meals to children this summer

When school's out, many children who live in poverty no longer eat nutritious meals like they do during school as part of the free and reduced-cost school lunch program.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Sacramento County has joined a coalition to promote the summer meals program, which is aiming to serve one million meals during summer 2018.

UC ANR's EFNEP program staffed a booth along with the UC Master Food Preserver Program at the Million Meals Summer picnic for Sacramento youth.

The coalition was formed by State Sen. Richard Pan, who invited Sacramento students to the State Capitol for a picnic May 22 launching the “Million Meals Summer.”

“In Sacramento County, on average 1.9 million free or reduced-price lunches are served each month while school is in session,” said Sen. Pan. “For so many of these children, school meals are their primary source of nutrition.”

Sen. Robert Pan, in center with white shirt, dances with children at the Million Meals Summer picnic.

In the summertime, the number of lunches served drops to less than 10 percent of the school-year number.

“Over the last couple of years, my office has worked with a growing number of organizations to help close the gap of child nutrition,” Sen. Pan said.

At the picnic, Sen. Pan, a pediatrician, reminded the children that eating healthy through the summer will get them ready to learn when school starts again.

Students enjoyed a healthy lunch.

Sen. Pan said Kim Frinzel, associate director of the California Department of Education nutrition services division, is leading the effort to set up sufficient meal sites and encourage children to attend.

“You get a great meal,” Frinzel told the students. “You get to hang out with your friends. And you get to participate in fun activities. Clap if you will help us serve a million meals.”

Linda Dean, left, and Vanessa Kenyon of Sacramento EFNEP.

Vanessa Kenyon, EFNEP program supervisor for Sacramento and San Joaquin counties, said EFNEP will provide nutrition education training for Samuel Merritt University nurses-in-training.

“Summer meals are provided at 140 sites in Sacramento County. If the children stick around after eating, they can take part in enrichment programs. The student nurses will fulfill a portion of their service hours by sharing nutrition education resources and activities at the meal sites,” Kenyon said.

The UC EFNEP program, which serves 24 counties in California, assists limited-resource families gain the knowledge and skills to choose nutritionally sound diets and improve well-being.

The United Way California Capital Region heads the coalition of community, business and state partners supporting the Million Meals Summer in Sacramento County.

Physical activities at the picnic included parachute play.
UC Cooperative Extension apiculture specialist Elina Niño shared information with students at the picnic about the lives of bees.
A few students from American Lakes Elementary School said they would be eating at summer meal sites. Left to right are James Dixon, 9, Yahaira Ramirez, 11, Diana De La Cerda, 12, and Eduardo Liscano, 9.
UC ANR marketing and communications specialist Suzanne Morikawa, center, fills in a visitor about EFNEP's role in the community.
Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 1:19 PM
Tags: EFNEP (10), nutrition (125), school lunches (1), Vanessa Kenyon (1)
Focus Area Tags: Food

UC’s My Healthy Plate article named 'paper of the year'

The USDA's colorful MyPlate icon clearly shows many Americans how to formulate healthy meals for their families with the proper proportions of fruits and vegetables, protein foods, grains and dairy products. However, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators in Central California discovered that the infographic was too abstract for local low-literate families. They embarked on a years-long effort to translate the shapes and colors into a series pictures showing plates filled with healthful, real food.

The concept clicked, so county and campus-based researchers joined together to document the effectiveness of a new curriculum shaped around pictures of properly portioned plates of food to share with nutrition educators around the nation and world. They wrote an article, A Picture is worth a thousand words: Customizing MyPlate for low-literate, low-income families in 4 steps, which was published in the July-August 2015 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. In 2016, the article was named the “paper of the year” in a category of articles and research programs called “great educational material” (GEM).

In the paper, the researchers shared a four-step process for creating a set of meal photographs that will resonate with families in different communities.

The four steps are:

  1. Review food patterns and determine meal combinations – This is done by asking clientele what foods they recently fed their families. Once the foods are identified, they can be modified to meet MyPlate recommendations.
  2. Test meals and take final photographs – Prepare the meals, take photos and test the photos with the target audience.
  3. Develop and test education messages to accompany photos – Messages should have few words, use family vocabulary and be written for a low-literacy audience.
  4. Create and test education materials – After the suggested materials are created, they should be tested with the target audience.

The UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is using the “My Healthy Plate” materials in reaching out to low-literacy and low-income families in California.

The authors of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior paper of the year are Mical Shilts researcher at UC Davis; Margaret Johns, nutrition, family and consumer science advisor in Kern County; Cathi Lamp, emeritus nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Tulare County; Connie Schneider, emeritus Youth, Families and Communities director for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Marilyn Townsend, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.

My Healthy Plate education materials are available at http://townsendlab.ucdavis.edu.

USDA’s MyPlate graphic (left) was too abstract for some audiences, prompting UC ANR nutrition educators to take photos of healthy meals, like the one on the right, for a nutrition curriculum called My Healthy Plate.
Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 2:46 PM
Tags: EFNEP (10), Marilyn Townsend (2), My Healthy Plate (1), nutrition (125)

Empowering California youth through food smart families

We are what we eat. Unfortunately, we don't always make the best food choices. Sometimes it's simply a lack of will power. In communities struggling with high poverty rates, it's often the result of low incomes and limited food options. Dangerously high obesity rates, especially among youth, are a major public health concern in the United States.

The health of California youth reflects this disturbing national trend. To address the challenge of childhood obesity statewide, the California 4-H Food Smart Families program will be implemented at four sites in Fresno, Orange, Sutter-Yuba and Tulare counties this year. Additional UC partners will include the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and CalFresh.

Youth need to increase consumption of dark green veggies and whole grains, and decrease intake of sugar and saturated fats. The objective of California 4-H Food Smart Families is to increase knowledge and create behavior change related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, physical activity and food preparation. The program engages youth 8 to 12 years old and teens in 4-H Healthy Living programming. Youth will be directly reached through lessons delivered at after-school sites, low-resource elementary schools and organized field days at four UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers (REC): Kearney REC in Parlier, South Coast REC in Irvine, Sierra Foothill REC in Browns Valley and Lindcove REC in Exeter. The program is structured around positive youth development curricula and practices which provide an intensive engagement of underserved children, teens, families and other stakeholders. Local 4-H teens will be recruited and trained to deliver programs and assume leadership roles.

The National 4-H Council partnered with the ConAgra Food Foundation to launch the national 4-H Food Smart Families program in 2014. ConAgra sponsored funding to award grants to five states for program implementation. This year, in addition to the original five states, California and Louisiana were awarded grants as new participants. Inclusion of the UC Research and Extension Centers in the California program is a new model that organizers hope will be replicated elsewhere. Youth and families who visit the centers will witness first-hand not only how food is grown, but also the science behind it. Center specific lessons may be added to highlight the unique nature of local agriculture and natural resources and the food crops cultivated and studied at each center.

Programming at California sites will get underway this fall and will continue through the school year. Look for more exciting California 4-H Food Smart Families news in the coming months as programming and activities kick into high gear.

Author: Roberta Barton

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 8:46 AM
Tags: 4-H (28), CalFresno (1), EFNEP (10), food smart families (1), Kearney (6), Lindcove (1), nutrition (125), Research and Extension (1), teens (2)

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