Rates of obesity and poor nutrition continue to increase for both adults and children in the United States. This is especially prevalent among low-income populations, as parents frequently turn to calorie-dense but low-nutrient foods when family food resources are limited. Eating habits that are formed during childhood are critically important as they lay the groundwork for future patterns that can affect lifelong health. Families need guidance to get the most nutrition from their limited resources in order for their children to grow and thrive.
The Massachusetts Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is part of a national effort to improve the nutrition and health of low-income families with young children. The program identifies individuals from target communities who are recruited and trained to deliver nutrition education to small groups of families for 2 to 4 months. Educators teach with a special understanding of the lifestyles, food-ways, and challenges that families face and in a language they understand. Project staff use a creative curriculum that engages participants in group discussions, cooking demonstrations, food tasting, music, fun physical activities, and other hands-on learning. Staff are based at UMass Amherst and in five field offices across the state (Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester).