Since 1969, when the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) began, it has reached more than 34 million low-income families and youths. EFNEP is conducted by the Cooperative Extension System through Land-grant Institutions in all U.S. states and territories and the District of Columbia.
Using a peer-led education model to support program participants’ efforts toward self-sufficiency and nutritional health and well-being, EFNEP remains at the forefront of nutrition education efforts to reduce nutrition insecurity of low-income families and youths today.
EFNEP contributes to nutrition security as program families and youths gained knowledge and skills for healthier food and physical activity choices, increased food resource management (shopping and food preparation), food safety, and improved food security practices to keep healthy in challenging times. Consistent with previous years, adult and youth participants in FY 2022 reported improved behaviors following program involvement. More than 90% of adult EFNEP participants reported improvement in what they ate.
National EFNEP priorities for FY 2022 included facilitating workforce development, increasing program reach and increasing appropriate use of technology in teaching. USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) leadership convened a six-session training series for all program coordinators nationwide. This timely series helped offset COVID-19 pandemic effects, such as program disruptions, staff burnout and changes in programmatic leadership.
In 2022, NIFA received $69.4 million for Land-grant University Cooperative Extension partners to conduct EFNEP in all 50 states, six U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. EFNEP employed 1,285 educators who are members of the communities they serve. In turn, EFNEP educators worked directly with 45,421 adults and 187,663 youths.
These educators tailored lessons on diet quality and physical activity, food resource management, food safety and food security to meet the specific needs of their respective program participants. Total participation increased slightly in 2022, as universities and communities continued to adapt to a changed environment resulting from the global pandemic of the two previous years.
The majority of EFNEP adults are from historically underserved populations. An increasing trend is programming to refugee and immigrant populations. Data reported through diet recalls shows that EFNEP graduates eat more closely to MyPlate.gov recommendations. EFNEP graduates reported a collective food cost savings of more than $558,000. Additionally, over 90% of adult participants improved their diets including adding more fruits and vegetables.
The effect of the pandemic on the economy and health continues to aggravate existing geographic and health inequities, especially in rural Mississippi. As the need for nutrition education continues to grow, Mississippi State University EFNEP provides young adults the opportunity to learn to improve diet quality, physical activity, food safety and food resource management skills, which can positively influence not only the health behavior of young adults enrolled in the program but also positively impact their future families. Mississippi State University
Pemiscot County, Missouri, has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state. The poverty rate for residents of Pemiscot County exceeds 28%. Individuals living in poverty have difficulty accessing, affording and therefore consuming healthier food options such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lincoln University Cooperative Extension EFNEP partners with local community organizations to give low-income families the knowledge and skills needed to make behavior changes toward a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, while stretching their food dollars. Upon completion of EFNEP classes, graduates in Pemiscot County reported increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and an average savings of $52 per month on food costs. Lincoln University
In collaboration with a high school that received Farm to School funding, Oregon EFNEP educators conducted a series of cooking classes. Students tried new foods and were excited to share the recipes with other classmates and family members. One student was surprised to find a dessert recipe that also included a vegetable: “I never thought of doing that, and I didn’t think I liked squash at all.” Oregon State University
A mother of two in Colorado struggled to incorporate vegetables into family meals. Her kids and husband didn’t eat the vegetables she served. To save on food costs and minimize food waste, she stopped serving vegetables. Through EFNEP classes she learned to be creative. She included vegetables as part of dishes the family already enjoyed eating and was able to improve their diets. Colorado State University
San Juan, Puerto Rico, has a 40% poverty rate. One mother who was on food assistance enrolled in EFNEP virtually to learn to basic food skills. She had no knowledge of food safety practices, reading nutrition labels or planning meals for her family. She participated in EFNEP through videoconferencing. She also received motivational text messages. Upon completing the program, she said, “I learned to read the nutritional labels and to make a shopping list before going to the supermarket to save on purchases. I learned how to prepare many delicious recipes for my family. I also do the physical activity routine that I learned and have lost 15 pounds.” University Of Puerto Rico
Top image: Family cooking vegetables together. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.