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Nutrition program teaches to save money by eating healthy

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010

A nutrition education program in Juneau offers free basic nutrition and food-budgeting programs, classes and workshops to targeted audiences.

"Food is expensive for everyone, especially for those with limited resources," said Jennifer Nu, nutrition educator for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, which offers the program.

"It is a challenge, but it's not impossible to eat healthily on a budget. This program provides the tools, skills and practical knowledge to be able to feed oneself and family healthy food that is affordable."

Alaska Nutrition Education Program is a year-round program that provides information to food-stamp eligible individuals and families on how to make the most of their food dollars. The local theme is "Eat Healthy, Save Money" - or sometimes interpreted as "save money by eating healthy," Nu said.

A one of the six part-time educators in the state of Alaska for the Juneau area, Nu spends her time developing and delivering nutrition programs, tailoring them to the needs of the community.

"I take research-based nutrition and food budgeting information and make it relevant to Juneau residents," she said.

Although she is not a nutritionist or health professional, Nu can provide classes on basic nutrition information that is research-based and from accredited institutions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And because she is fluent in Spanish, Nu can delivere classes in English or Spanish.

"We want to equip clients with basic nutritional knowledge in combination with basic financial literacy so that they are able to make healthy food choices within a limited budget," she said. "The motto I use in Juneau is a nice way of summarizing the program. It's about eating healthy on a budget."

Last year, the program had several hundred people attend classes, workshops and training.

"We like to work through program coordinators to set up programs for people who use services at existing organizations and agencies," Nu said. "The targeted audiences are individuals and families who qualify to receive food stamps, although receiving food stamps is not a requirement."

Nu describes the classes as fun, interactive and informative.

"We have lots of discussions, games, activities such as making our own hamburger mixes, basic cooking, grocery store scavenger hunts, etc.," she said.

The last class was held March 11. Classes are free to participants and agencies.

"I hope more people will be aware that this is a public service from the Cooperative Extension Service," she said. "I would like for participants to come away from our classes with the ability to feed themselves and their families healthy foods even when money is tight."

The community can support this program by requesting classes. Classes, workshops and presentations are available upon request by contacting Jennifer Nu at 796-6241 or janu@alaska.edu, or at the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District Office on the second floor of the Bill Ray Center.

•••

ANEP is a federal/state partnership that supports nutrition education for persons eligible for food stamps. State and local funding comes primarily from land-grant institutions which contract with state food stamp agencies to deliver ANEP.

In the case of Alaska, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service provides matching funds to the ANEP grant and Alaska district faculty supervise the nutrition educators whose positions are funded through the grant.

Nutrition educators bring the programs to targeted low-income populations by coordinating with state and local partners, such as state public health departments, food banks, tribal programs, local health organizations and nonprofit organizations.

The mission of ANEP is to provide educational programs to people eligible for food stamps in order to equip them with the information needed to make healthy food choices within a limited budget.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.



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