Montana State University

MSU Extension nutrition educators help Montanans put healthy food on the table

September 18, 2008

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You may not be able to prepare a healthy meal on a dime's worth of ingredients, but you can make your food budget go further than you may have thought possible.

"With the right information and organizing your approach to meals, most Montanans can put more healthy food on the table," says Coleen Kaiser of Montana State University Extension.

Providing information about ways to prepare inexpensive healthy meals is the job of the MSU Extension nutrition education team that includes Kaiser and 21 nutrition educators providing programs in 17 counties and on five reservations.

Kaiser coordinates two federally funded nutrition education programs: the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the federal food stamp program's education arm under its new name of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP-Ed. Though Kaiser is new in her role, EFNEP has a 40-year track record of helping people with limited food budgets stretch them further. And the education program for people eligible for food stamps has been underway in Montana since 1997.

One 2007 participant in the food stamp education program wrote, "Since taking the lessons, I can now make my food stamps last through the month. I cook more meals and buy less boxed meals. I feel that I am making healthy choices for myself and especially for my children."

That kind of comment is what provides Kaiser and her team with the energy that delivered nutrition-related classes around Montana in 2007 to over 3,400 adults and 4,700 first-, third- and fifth-graders in Title One schools.

And the two traditional target audiences of federal nutrition education efforts, low-income families with children and food stamp recipients, will soon be joined by another group: senior citizens on low incomes in Blaine, Lincoln, Mineral, Ravalli and Sanders counties.

The nutrition education team meets twice a year to share insights on what information delivery techniques seem to connect best with their audiences. Their base of information comes from the USDA.

"These programs bring federal resources to Montana and help us provide information to people we probably wouldn't be able to reach otherwise with this overall good-health message," Kaiser said.

In addition to MSU Extension programs for low-income families, Extension provides nutrition education programs through its family and consumer science state specialists and local agents located in counties and on reservations. For more information on nutrition education programs near you, contact Kaiser at coleenk@montana.edu or (406) 994-6318.

Additional resources include:
MSU Extension Nutrition Education Programs: http://www.montana.edu/nep/index.htm

USDA: Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals
http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlansRecipeBook.pdf

Contact: Coleen Kaiser (406) 994-6318 coleenk@montana.edu