The NIFA's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is a unique program that currently operates in all 50 states and in American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. It is designed to assist limited-resource audiences in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets, and to contribute to their personal development and the improvement of the total family diet and nutritional well-being.
Through an experiential learning process, adult program participants learn how to make food choices which can improve the nutritional quality of the meals they serve their families. They increase their ability to select and buy food that meets the nutritional needs of their family. They gain new skills in food production, preparation, storage, safety and sanitation, and they learn to better manage their food budgets and related resources from federal, state, and local food assistance agencies and organizations. They also may learn about related topics such as physical activity and health. EFNEP is delivered as a series of 10-12 or more lessons, often over several months, by paraprofessionals (peer educators) and volunteers, many of whom are indigenous to the target population. The hands-on, learn-by-doing approach allows the participants to gain the practical skills necessary to make positive behavior changes. Through EFNEP, participants also experience increased self-worth, recognizing that they have something to offer their families and society.
The delivery of EFNEP youth programs takes on various forms. EFNEP provides nutrition education at schools as an enrichment of the curriculum, in after-school care programs and through 4-H EFNEP clubs, day camps, residential camps, community centers, neighborhood groups, and home gardening workshops. In addition to lessons on nutrition, food preparation, and food safety, youth topics may also include related topics, including physical activity and health.
County extension family and consumer science professionals provide on-the-job training and supervise paraprofessionals (peer educators) and volunteers who teach EFNEP. Paraprofessionals usually live in the communities where they work. They recruit families and receive referrals from current and former participants, neighborhood contacts and community organizations and agencies. Examples of referral sources are local schools and businesses, workforce preparedness and health and wellness centers, non-profit and faith-based organizations, and local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and WIC offices. Methods for program delivery may include direct teaching in group or one-to-one situations; mailings and telephone teaching to complement other teaching methods; mass media efforts to develop understanding, awareness, and involvement in the educational program; and development and training of volunteers to assist with direct teaching of adults and youth.
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