Extension website encourages Oregonians to eat healthier

bowl of ham and vegetable chowder
OSU Extension's Food Hero website includes a recipe for ham and vegetable chowder. (Photo by Laura LaMotte.)

Over 200 recipes with appetizing photos and nutritional analysis are online

Many low-income Oregonian are not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. An OSU survey of about 1,200 Oregonians eligible for federal food assistance found that more than 80 percent said they wanted to serve more balanced meals. Nearly half of those surveyed wanted to find information about healthy food choices online.

In response, the OSU Extension Service created the Food Hero website, a go-to resource for affordable, easy recipes and shopping and cooking tips. Extension also posts new recipes and innovative ways to cook with kids on social media. Additionally, OSU Extension educators have demonstrated how to prepare recipes from the website to youth and families at over 210 elementary schools in nearly every Oregon county. They prepare or give samples of recipes more than 250 times throughout the state each month. Recipes and cooking and shopping tips are also shared through a publication in Spanish and English that's emailed to about 750 subscribers and is printed more than 25,000 times each month. Over 3,600 copies of it are sent home with schoolchildren each month.

In 2013, there were nearly 327,000 visits to the website and more than 770,000 page views. The site ranks in the top five on Google when search terms like "fun healthy recipes" and "fast fun recipes" are used. Food Hero has about 1,000 Facebook fans, over 370 Twitter followers and more than 650 Pinterest followers. One chicken pasta recipe has been shared more than 60,000 times via Pinterest. Dozens of comments on the website attest to Food Hero's positive impact. One commenter wrote of a chili cheese hominy dish: "I love that it uses an ingredient that is low cost and I hadn't used before. I couldn't belive from the taste that it was really healthy?!?! I had to look at the nutrition info, and yes it really is healthy, low fat, and a good source of calcium [and vitamins] A and C!! I will make this again and again!!"

Source: Lauren Tobey, OSU Extension nutrition education program coordinator.

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