- Eating a healthy diet combined with physical activity is necessary for all-around balance and wellbeing.
- Inadequate nutrition education is concentrated in low-income populations, which then leads to poor decisions and ultimately, poor health.
- Schools are in need of improved nutrition education, as they have a big impact on how students eat and the choices they make
Family Nutrition Program
Getting the proper nutrients in everyday life is important for people of all ages. Getting the right nutrition is how we keep our bodies moving, because healthy food acts as the fuel that our bodies turn into energy. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for families to be properly nourished, and that could be for a variety of reasons. Some families don’t have enough resources, and some don’t have a good understanding of what a good nutritional balance looks like.
That’s where family nutrition programs come in (1). Nutrition classes for families help the participants to gain new skills and get a better understanding of nutritional and physical well-being of their family. These classes also develop people’s understanding of the relationship between nutrition and physical activity, and they allow participants to better choose nutritious foods. A good family nutrition program will also improve a family’s skills related to food preparation, storage, safety, and mealtime practices. These classes can also help people manage their budget when it comes to how much they spend on food.
A nutrition program example that many families find helpful is called No Kid Hungry (2). No Kid Hungry acts with the goal of reaching younger children through their caregivers to teach them about the importance of nutrition. They can reach smaller children in a variety of ways, such as through doctors’ offices, childcare centers, and federal programs like WIC and SNAP. They also work with Cooking Matters, which is a sister campaign that partners with communities to teach parents and caregivers on how to supply healthy food for their families on a budget. Cooking Matters teaches cooking classes, leads interactive grocery store tours, supplies recipes and videos with tips and tricks - all for free. The reason that it’s free is because the goal is to educate as many people as possible in order to create a healthier community.
Community Nutrition Programs
On a wider scale exists community nutrition programs. What is a community nutrition program, you ask? It’s very similar to a family nutrition program, but instead of aiming their efforts towards a family unit, the nutritionists and educators place their focus on an entire community (3). The benefits of community nutrition programs include the ability to change people’s relationship with food and nutrition - participants can feel inspired to make healthy choices rather than the unhealthy choices that they’re used to, simply because they’re armed with the knowledge of understanding how to do so.
In a community nutrition program, participants should have a degree of trust for one another and their facilitators as well. Since the goal of such a community program is to lift confidence and improve attitudes surrounding food, facilitators will always maintain an environment that promotes a healthy change in behavior.
A community is healthy when everyone within it is healthy. That means everyone - not just the privileged people or those who have enough money to buy higher-end food. Public health refers to the health of everyone, which is why community nutrition programs also center on designing programs, systems, policies, and environments for improving the populational health. It is the goal of community nutrition to create a change in knowledge, attitude, behavior, and health among individuals within a community.
Such programs will commonly focus on groups of people who need their help in a bigger way than others. For example, these groups may focus on a particular race or ethnicity, people who hold a certain socioeconomic status, those who live in a certain geographical area, or those who identify as a certain gender.
Community nutrition programs are there to provide help for those who need it. In order for the entire community to thrive, people with less privilege and less resources need to be given what they need in order to succeed - and that includes invaluable things like nutritional knowledge and skills.
School Based Nutrition Program
More than ever, it’s important to have a school based nutrition program. But even though schools play an important role in helping students develop healthy eating habits, US students receive less than 8 hours of nutrition education per school year (4).
Why is school nutrition important in the first place? Well, the school nutrition association can help students form healthy eating behaviors by providing foods and beverages that are healthy and appealing, consistent and accurate messages about nutrition and healthy foods, and ways to learn about and practice healthy eating. Students spend the majority of their young lives in school, so there’s no better place for them to learn about the fuel that keeps their bodies going.
It’s important for schools to provide opportunities for nutrition education. As we mentioned, students are only getting an average of 8 hours of it as it stands, but 40-50 hours are needed to make a change in behavior.
Schools are busy places and it can be hard to make time for such programs, but there are ways to fit in nutrition education throughout the existing day. You can incorporate it into the classroom, whether it’s a standalone lesson or integrated into an existing plan. A few ideas include: counting with pictures of fruits and vegetables, learning fractions by following a recipe, observing the way plants grow for science, learning about cultural food traditions for social studies, and much more.
The cafeteria is the hub of nutrition for a student - at least, it should be. Through school meals, students can be exposed to new foods. While following the national school lunch program requirements, they can learn what balanced meals look like, even if they don’t have the opportunity to witness them at home. Some students may be wary of trying new things offered in the cafeteria, but they can be encouraged by staff, taste tests, and posters in the cafeteria that promote healthy eating.
Nutrition Extension Programs
Nutrition extension programs are a response to the national health concern of nutrition insecurity. Nutrition insecurity can cause health problems, especially among low-income populations - namely when it’s combined with limited physical activity and unsafe food practices. These extension programs provide education for such populations and put effort forth to reduce nutrition insecurity of low income families and youth (5).
There are certain states that have exemplary food programs, and the Florida food program that stands out among the rest is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (6). Because there is such a high concentration of retirees in Florida, this program is needed to aid the nutrition education of those 60 and older. There are many other programs in Florida as well, including Farm to School, the Food Recovery Program, and the National School Lunch Program.
The Virginia Family Nutrition Program is also one of the best Virginia nutrition programs out there (6). This program helps Virginians make smarter food and lifestyle choices by providing handy tips and advice. Through this program, you can find recipes, learn how to both plan and cook healthy meals on a budget, and discover lifestyle tips to move forward at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
There is also the Alaska Family Nutrition Program (7), which helps to support Alaskan families to make good nutrition decisions for a life-long health and wellbeing. With science-based education, breastfeeding support, and the delivery of supplemental foods through programs like Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). The Alaska Family Child Care Food Program is one of the great Alaska child nutrition programs as well. This program provides healthy meals and snacks to children in daycare, and it plays an important role in improving the quality of daycare in Alaska and making healthy meals possible for low-income families (8).
Nutrition Education Programs
Having good nutrition promotes independence, because when you are properly nourished you have a better chance to have adequate physical strength, good mobility, good endurance, and decent hearing, vision, and cognitive abilities (9).
A nutrition education program can be defined as any learning experience that surrounds the voluntary adoption of the habit of eating and other nutrition-related practices related to health and wellbeing. Nutrition education programs are necessary for all ages, from young children to older adults.
A nutrition education program example of success would be a program that also includes information on physical activity as well as healthy eating habits, because these two concepts go hand-in-hand for all-around health. A nutrition education program for college students may concentrate on the fact that physical activity can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, since college students commonly struggle with those feelings and are looking for ways to combat them.
Nutrition education programs online are possible as well, as the nutrition education programs definition does not state that the class must take place in person. Either online or in person, a nutrition education program may include: presentations, cooking classes, food preparation demonstrations, field trips, or plays. There are plenty of ways to make nutrition education fun. Classes could also include panel discussions, planning/evaluating menus, food taste testing, gardening, or informational videos.
A quality class will typically include information on food and what kinds of foods fuel the body best and how much you should eat, lessons on nutrition, the combination of bodily processes, and ingestion/digestion/absorption/metabolism/elimination, behavioral practices, including what influences your eating choices and how to best prepare food, consumer issues like the management of food purchasing power, and information on physical activity and how exercise can improve your overall quality of life.
- "Family Nutrition Program." University of Alaska Fairbanks, www.uaf.edu/ces/family/fnp.
- "Early Childhood." No Kid Hungry, www.nokidhungry.org/what-we-do/early-childhood.
- "Public Health and Community." Eat Right Pro, www.eatrightpro.org/practice/practice-resources/public-health-and-community.
- "Nutrition Education in US Schools." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/school_nutrition_education.htm.
- "Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)." National Institute of Health and Agriculture , nifa.usda.gov/program/expanded-food-and-nutrition-education-program-efnep.
- "Nutrition Programs." FDACS, www.fdacs.gov/Food-Nutrition/Nutrition-Programs.
- "Family Nutrition Program." Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Assistance , dhss.alaska.gov/dpa/Pages/nutri/default.aspx.
- "Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)." Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, education.alaska.gov/cnp/cacfp.
- "Nutrition Education." Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/program-services/nutrition-education.
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