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By Meleah PerezU of A System Division of AgricultureJuly 12, 2017
(728 words)(Download this story in MS Word here.)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — In a state with some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity
in the nation, health educators — including those with the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture — know they’ve got their work cut out for them.
The Division of Agriculture has been participating in SNAP-Ed — education about the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federally-funded program that helps feed
millions of low-income families throughout the country —since the ’90s, said Rosemary
Rodibaugh, an associate Family and Consumer Sciences department head and a professor
of nutrition with the Division of Agriculture.
Every county in that state participates in the SNAP-Ed program and the 4H youth development
program. EFNEP, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, is in 16 counties
and provides low-income individuals with knowledge and skills to maintain a safe and
During the summer months, several counties offer nutrition classes and cooking camps
“Our program grows a little bit every year,” Rodibaugh said. “We get small funding
increases each year, which allows us to hire additional staff and reach more people
with our nutrition education programs.”
In 2016, the division offered nutrition education programs in 234 schools and 59 counties,
Rodibaugh said. SNAP-Ed programs were in 621 locations in all 75 Arkansas counties,
according to the Division of Agriculture website.
Employees with the Division of Agriculture work with school lunch programs as well
as in the classroom. Beyond working with children and teenagers, they also work with
parents. Every program centers around improving health by teaching what to eat and
how much while on a budget.
Woodruff County Cooperative Extension Service agent Leigh Bullington partners with
ARcare, a health agency, to offer a diabetes cooking school, called Living Well with
Diabetes. She also exhibits nutrition displays in areas where SNAP-eligible recipients
would be such as at food pantries, housing authorities and senior living centers.
These displays have different themes, such as the importance of eating fruits and
vegetables and drinking more water.
Bullington also coordinates the recipe contest and food demonstrations at the Arkansas
Rice Expo, which will be held on Aug. 4 in Stuttgart this year. Bullington said she
plans to focus on a Mediterranean rice and chicken soup known as “avgolemono” during
a food preparation demonstration.
“Each year we develop a new recipe using rice,” Bullington said. “(Avgolemono) is
a really good, healthy soup recipe. The Rice Expo is a good venue to reach out to
people so that they see the nutritional things that we, at Extension, do.”
In late June, Miller County Cooperative Extension Service agent and staff chair Carla
Hadley, along with other Southwest Arkansas Family and Consumer Sciences agents, organized
the Teen Chef Academy, a week-long program that taught teens to prepare meals from
scratch from a different menu each day. Hadley also engages in SNAP-Ed programs in
a variety of settings including classrooms, workshops, businesses and laundromats,
to name a few.
“Anywhere the individuals are located, we go to them,” Hadley said. “As Family and
Consumer Science agents, we have the unique opportunity to address these issues by
teaching individuals how to live healthier lives.”
Ashley County Cooperative Extension Service chair Iris Phifer goes to three schools,
Crossett Elementary School, Portland Elementary School and Noble/Allbritton Elementary
School, in her county monthly for seven months during the school years to teach about
healthy eating. She also does Extension’s Yoga for Kids program in the schools.
Phifer said this has made an impact in her county.
In 2016, Phifer’s department sent 403 surveys to parents. The survey found that 66
percent of parents made changes to the family’s eating habit and 89 percent of children
talk to parents about healthy foods. Fifty-nine percent of the parents who responded
to the survey were more active as a result of what their children learned.
Ouachita County Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences agent Addie
Wilson lets children taste a variety of foods they might not otherwise experience
when she goes to schools.
“Sometimes the hindrance can be at home,” Wilson said. “A parent saying, ‘No, my child
doesn’t like broccoli,’ or ‘We’re not going to buy it because they won’t eat it.’
We always give the kids a chance to taste those kinds of foods, so they can make the
decision for themselves.”
“This is what we do in extension. We teach people to make better choices,” Rodibaugh
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org