Lane County Extension: Nutrition Education and Outreach (in English)

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I'm Elise Camphor, and I've worked at Malabon for 25 years as an elementary school teacher. Right now, I teach third grade. Malabon is in the Eugene area, but we're in the Bethel School District.

My name is Lizzie McDougall, and I am part of the nutrition education department for Lane County Extension Office. So, I get the fun job of going to schools and teaching nutrition ed and cooking and health-related skills.

How did you get started?

I was able to find help from the extension service when we were looking for ways to enrich the kids' math and, of course, social skills. Cooking came up, and parents had indicated over time that they wanted kids to have real-life experiences. So, when the extension service explained what Lizzie was doing, it was a perfect fit. The curriculum that I teach is the same curriculum as Kids in the Kitchen, but the way it's applied in the classroom has evolved as we've gotten to know the students and their needs. What was so important about the program was that it was an eight-week situation so that the children had skills varying ability levels. I can say that I had some children who had used knives before, but I also had children who had not been allowed in the kitchen. So, it was a wide range of their experiences, and again, they were young. So, having the eight weeks made all the difference. And then it moved into reading recipes, preparing the food itself, and then even more complex skills. It took it from an abstract idea to a real, physical, hands-on, fun, and exciting activity. So, the recipes that we utilize in the classroom and in all of our programming, it comes from our Food Hero website. They're designed for a person with limited skills in the kitchen. The recipes feature fruits and vegetables to create a nutritionally balanced meal that the kids enjoy. The recipes are designed so that we're not teaching to cook from a can. We're teaching them how to do every part of the skill, the measuring, the chopping, the cooking, and all that.

What did you learn because of Lane County Extension's outreach? I would say that it brought the kids that experience that they don't ever forget. School is a series of listen, follow directions, and of course, learning. But those hands-on and also group cooperative activities stay with them forever. And it wasn't just the children that were able to benefit from the extension. It was their parents, and many parents I've had over the years, of course, all of their children. And they would come in the fall and say, "When is the cooking class?" They also were able to tell their parents about cooking, and their parents are excited because they feel that it gives that independence that the children have always wanted to have. But who's going to teach them that in an organized way? The extension service provided that.

Conclusion: Lane County Extension is essential because it's a bridge for what's happening outside of the school. We have a California garden, of course, and children don't garden like they used to. They'd have to get to high school to experience that in our district. But with Lizzy bringing in the fruits and vegetables and she teaches them their origin. So, without extension service, I would not be able to provide that for the children. Where does the food come from? This is the way that they find that out you.

Oregon State University Extension Service in Lane County steadily grew its community outreach programs after county voters passed a levy to fund Extension in 2016. The Extension Nutrition Education and Outreach programs are part of the Extension Family and Community Health Program in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. These programs engage with communities across Oregon to provide nutrition education to thousands of limited income youth, families, and adults. Through research-based strategies, these programs focus on obesity prevention through community collaborations and engagement, particularly via the signature Food Hero social marketing initiative, to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

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