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 300 recipes with appetizing photos and nutritional analysis are online

Many low-income Oregonians 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 Social Marketing Campaign, which includes a 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 140 schools from elementary to high schools in nearly every Oregon county. They prepare or give samples of recipes hundreds of times throughout the state each month. Recipes and cooking and shopping tips are also shared through a Food Hero Monthly publication in Spanish and English that's emailed to over 2,700 subscribers and is printed nearly 50,000 times each month. Over 3,600 copies of it are sent home with schoolchildren each month.

In 2017, there were more than 1.8 million visits to the website. The site ranks in the top three on Google when search terms like “healthy fun recipes" and "fast fun recipes" are used. Food Hero has about 2,400 Facebook fans, over 590 Twitter followers and more than 2,900 Pinterest followers. Hundreds 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 believe 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 Food Hero program coordinator

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