For more than 35 years, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has been reaching out to low-income families and youth through nutrition education programs. The mission of Kentucky's Nutrition Education Program is to educate limited resource people to acquire knowledge, improve skills, and change behavior necessary to achieve health and well-being. Annually the program reaches more than 5,500 families and 29,000 youth.
Educational programs are conducted by a network of paraprofessionals who work with county Extension agents to plan and implement outreach activities. Currently the program employees 78 paraprofessionals in 68 counties. Educational materials and activities are designed to teach families how to achieve and maintain good health, avoid running out of food, prepare and store food safely, and make healthy food choices with a limited budget. The most recent year's data indicates that 70 percent of the families enrolled in the program are also enrolled in one or more food assistance programs. Those individuals are gaining knowledge and making changes in their eating habits. Consider the following highlights:
- Ninety-five percent of adults who completed the program last year reported making a positive change in eating habits.
- Fifty percent consumed three or more servings of calcium per day.
- Fifty percent consumed three or more servings of vegetables daily
- Sixty-four percent plan meals and compare food prices.
Liz Buckner, Director of Nutrition Education Programs, stated, "Nutrition Education Program paraprofessionals are the heart of the program. Most of them were raised in their respective community and know the true situation many of their clients face daily. This knowledge and trust builds the strong relationship needed to make this program successful."