Hartford County’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) provided virtual nutrition education and cooking programs to limited resource adults and youth in 2021.
We held the Cook and Chat virtual series for adults online. It included sessions on cooking basics, food safety, food budgeting, and nutrition topics over three to 12 lessons. Programs partners were agencies in Enfield, Plainville, New Britain, Hartford, and Bristol. They prepared easy, nutritious recipes from home and had a group discussion. Participants received the ingredient and equipment lists before each class. Participants also received incentives for completing the program surveys and dietary recalls. These included measuring cups, grocery bags, food thermometers, and cutting boards. The early evening programs were popular since participants could use the recipe for their meal.
A virtual youth program in the summer focused on gardening, nutrition, cooking, and fitness. Human Resources Agency (HRA) in New Britain partnered with EFNEP. This was a workforce development project for youth entering ninth grade. This intensive program was 20 hours per week and held via Google classroom. Youth learned about health and nutrition careers while completing gardening and fitness activities.
EFNEP Educators positively interacted with participants despite the challenges of completely virtual environments. Youth and adult participants were eager to learn about nutrition, food budgeting, and easy recipes. Adults felt comfortable cooking in their own homes. They were also more likely to replicate a recipe for their family at a later date. The incentives motivated participants. They stayed engaged in the lessons and completed our evaluation surveys and dietary recalls. In many ways, the EFNEP educators learned a great deal more about a family’s needs in this personal space. The pandemic created new challenges. EFNEP’s efforts evolved and continues serving limited resource youth and adults.
Article by Sharon Gray, RD