Cooperative Extension Plans Fitness and Nutrition Focused Programs | News
In mid-December, many people are thinking about what goals they would like to achieve as the New Year approaches, especially those related to a healthier lifestyle.
Local residents can register now to participate in a number of programs offered by Warren County Cooperative Extension in conjunction with its land granting university partners, North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina State University, and agencies. and community organizations to help them do just this.
Crystal Smith, director of Warren County Co-op Extension / Family and Consumer Sciences, noted that co-op expansion focuses on three main areas that are often interconnected: agriculture, food and youth. Within these broad categories, she and Nitasha Kearney, Educator of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, focus on fitness and nutrition programs for youth and adults of all ages.
They are particularly excited about the opportunities to tackle food insecurities made more difficult by the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith said 2022 will mark the second year of the three-year North Carolina Farm to Senior Services program, a grant program made possible through a partnership between local farmers, the nonprofit Cooperative Extension, Working Landscapes, the Warren County Senior Center and the Center for Environmental Agricultural Systems. Warren is one of three counties in the state to receive grants for the program.
“This is about finding unique ways to provide local and free food to the elderly,” Smith said.
After a year of planning and assessing local needs, the new year will be about identifying a farmer in the area and planning how to make the products accessible to the elderly.
The plans are to be implemented in the third year.
Cooperative Extension will also work to address food insecurities through the More in My Basket program, developed by NC Cooperative Extension and NC State University.
Smith said the program is designed to connect local residents to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps. A representative from the state of North Carolina will interview interested local residents to determine if they are eligible for the SNAP program. Information on who is eligible will then be passed directly to the Warren County Department of Social Services.
Smith explained that Warren County Cooperative Extension will be able to speak one-on-one with eligible people on how to extend their benefit amount to prepare nutritious meals.
In addition to these efforts to reduce food insecurity, Cooperative Extension plans a variety of programs that will help local residents adopt healthier diets:
• Cooperative Extension will partner with Turning Point Community Development Corporation in Henderson for Loyal Families / Thriving Communities, an effort designed to encourage families to eat smart and be active. The program partners with local faith communities.
Cooperative Extension and Turning Point CDC are now recruiting families to participate in the eight week program which is offered free of charge. Sessions will focus on nutrition and include devotions presented by Turning Point CDC.
Smith encouraged local faith communities who would be interested in similar nutrition classes to contact Cooperative Extension to organize sessions.
• Cooperative Extension will offer its next LIFT (Lifelong Improvements through Fitness Together) sessions at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Buck Spring Center. Those interested will soon be able to register.
Smith noted that although the program is geared towards the aging population, people of all ages can participate. Participants will receive a pre-program fitness assessment to assess their strength and mobility in order to plan exercises designed to meet the needs of the group.
Classes will include exercise and nutritional advice, including recipes to try at home. Participants will monitor their intake of vegetables and fruits in an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Participants will take another fitness assessment at the end of the program to measure their growth over time. Smith said the last group of participants showed a 100 percent improvement in strength and mobility.
• A Master Food Volunteer program designed to be similar to the existing Master Gardeners program will allow participants to complete training to help with cooperative extension programs.
Smith encourages anyone interested in food, especially locally grown foods, and cooking to participate. After completing the 30-hour training program, Master Food Volunteers will devote 20 hours per year to cooperative extension programs in settings such as schools, Warren County Senior Center, and local churches. Volunteers can help with everything from preparing meals before class to teaching classes.
• A one-day pop-up cooking session, Under Pressure, will help participants plan meals that can be easily prepared in slow cookers. All ingredients will be provided. Participants will learn to use and clean a slow cooker and leave the classroom with five ready meals.
In the future, Smith hopes to be able to offer a program that covers the use of kitchen gadgets, such as pressure cookers and air fryers, which are often given as Christmas gifts. Again, the program will focus on the use and how to prepare healthy meals.