Nutrition Classes to Help Low-Income Residents

Nutrition Program logoIt can be tough to focus on healthy eating and exercise when you are struggling to make ends meet, but the Family Nutrition Program (FNP), is designed to do just that.

And the program, aimed low-income Floridians eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), is being expanded into Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.

Offered through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension, the program expansion is being supported by a $95,090 two-year grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF). It is hoped the program will help participants learn to make healthy food choices on limited budgets and get more active in an effort to decrease the risk of chronic disease and help residents maintain a healthy weight.

The FNP classes are evidence-based, and designed to promote healthful food choices, food and physical activity balance, food safety, and food security among the targeted audience.

Programming will be provided to a diverse audience of youth, adults, and older adults/seniors with limited-financial resources.

Lessons will be provided to adults and seniors once a month at various targeted community-based sites including senior living centers, community centers, and libraries.  Programming will be evaluated using a lesson-specific survey which participants will complete after each lesson. Children and their families will also be engaged in programs presented at Head Start locations.

WPHF’s grant supports the hiring of a full time Program Assistant (PA) who will provide nutrition education through group classes to youth and adult participants in Eatonville, Maitland, and Winter Park.  The PA also will be involved in indirect education, participating in community health fairs and distributing of educational materials.

Cooking Matters at the Store is one example of the many classes to be provided, said Lisa Portelli, WPHF Program Director. It is an evidence-based, one-time educational guided grocery store tour educating participants on how to read food labels, compare unit prices, find whole grain foods and identify three ways to purchase produce. The tour ends with the $10 Challenge, giving participants the chance to use the skills they’ve just learned to buy ingredients for a healthy meal for a family of four, for under $10.

The main curriculum for older adult direct education will be Elder Nutrition and Food Safety, an evidenced-based curriculum with a total of 17 one-hour lessons on the unique nutritional needs of older adults, healthy eating for older adults, and food safety basics.  The Nemours Healthy Habits for Life curriculum will be used for education of pre-school children and their families.

WPHF’s grant will support the program until 2016 when the UF/IFAS Extension office in Orange County will apply for additional SNAP-Ed funding to extend support for the PA through September 2017. Additionally, the Extension Agent/FNP Coordinator will be able to supplement the nutrition education provided by PA.

Classes are expected to start in the fall, 2014, but the exact locations and sign-up information is not yet available.