University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Food & Nutrition Programs

Learning to Shop Smart with EFNEP

teacher leading a class discussion
Extension Expanded Nutrition and Food Education Program (EFNEP) Educator Susan Edwards (left) leads a discussion on smart grocery shopping strategies. (Photo: Rutu Shah)

As an intern in the University of Vermont (UVM) master's in dietetics degree program, I've learned quite a bit about the importance of providing nutrition education to limited-resource families. So, it was exciting for me to get off campus and observe in person the incredible outreach that UVM Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is providing in communities across the state of Vermont.

I recently attended a small group class in St. Albans led by EFNEP Nutrition Educator Susan Edwards. EFNEP group classes are designed to use hands-on activities and group discussion to teach parents and guardians who have limited resources about a variety of healthy lifestyle topics including food safety, physical activity and U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov), the federal daily dietary guidelines.

Susan led the class of mothers, who had their children in tow, through a conversation about saving money and smart shopping. They discussed some common and controversial myths and facts about grocery shopping including, for instance, whether grocery stores are organized to promote impulse buying.

The participants brought up topics they were interested in learning more about such as growing their own vegetables to save money, buying food in bulk and keeping pantries stocked with essential staple items. All of this made for a lively discussion.

They also came up with some great, practical suggestions for smarter shopping. For example, they suggested using the self-checkout to avoid the checkout aisle candy bar temptation.

After a menu-planning activity where the mothers came up with well-balanced, budget-friendly meal ideas, Susan announced the snack for the day: homemade hummus with whole-grain crackers. Although the children's initial reaction to this was a resounding "Ew!" they ended up loving it and begged their mothers to make hummus again for them at home.

Attending this group class allowed me to see first-hand how EFNEP's outreach efforts are effective at providing limited-resource families with the tools and knowledge to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Although the class I attended was in Franklin County, the program operates statewide, helping families, children and pregnant women learn how to make smart food and lifestyle choices for better health and nutrition. EFNEP also teaches food resource management skills, including meal planning and creating shopping lists, as well as food safety practices, such as thawing and storing foods properly.

In 2013, through a series of small-group classes and individual home visits, EFNEP worked with 161 Vermont families, reaching 597 family members including 279 children under the age of 19. The program also went to Vermont schools, serving 1,217 students in Pre-K through Grade 12 last year.

According to Amy Davidson, EFNEP coordinator, 99 percent of the adult participants showed improvement in following the MyPlate dietary recommendations when preparing meals for their families. Around 74 percent reported that they improved or adopted one or more food resource management practices while 84 percent showed improvement in one or more nutrition practices, such as making healthier food choices, reading nutrition labels or encouraging their children to eat breakfast.

To learn more about EFNEP, contact efnep@uvm.edu or call (802) 656-2311.

SIMPLE HUMMUS RECIPE

Serves 8

  • 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (or more) clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsps. water

Combine the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and water in a small bowl.  Mash with a fork (or purée with a food processor) until smooth. Serve with pita, crackers, veggies or on a sandwich.

If you are feeling creative, add extra flavorings such as lemon, cumin or spicy peppers, or use other types of beans such as black beans or cannellini.

Enjoy!

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 2 grams (g) total fat; 10 g total carbohydrate (0 g sugar); 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 15 g sodium