2019 Marks 50th Anniversary of National Food, Nutrition Program in Wyoming

Fifty years of providing nutrition education for Wyoming youths and families with limited resources are being recognized.

University of Wyoming Extension has provided the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) since its start in 1969. Programming is offered in Laramie, Natrona and Niobrara counties through the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP). Laramie and Natrona counties have always had EFNEP, while the third county has changed over the years. Prior to Niobrara County, EFNEP was delivered in Goshen County and then later moved to Fremont County.

Elizabeth Varela and Eric Reno, back, and Natalia Varela Johnson participate in Cent$ible Nutrition Program classes in Casper. CNP classes in Natrona, Laramie, and Niobrara counties are funded through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed).

Annual data from Wyoming EFNEP graduates has shown improvements in nutrition practices, ability to stretch food dollars, food safety practices and physical activity, says Mindy Meuli, CNP director.

In 2018, EFNEP participants saved an average of $899 annually, and 82 percent improved food safety practices, such as thawing meat safely, Meuli says. EFNEP programs collect and report impacts using a national reporting system.

EFNEP was the nation’s first nutrition education program of its kind and is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) national Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition. The program was implemented nationally to address food insecurity and improve health through nutritional intake, food resource management, physical activity and food safety practices.

Wyoming classes were initially offered in homes. Classes now are offered in group settings, often at UW Extension offices or other community buildings.

Jill Shire, of Natrona County, took her son to a class 15 years ago and then her daughter last year.

“I feel really honored to have been part of this program because it gave me the opportunity to introduce my children to nutritional facts and lifestyle changes,” Shire says.

Shire says her son is a great cook today, in part, because of his experience with EFNEP.

“When I was visiting him, we were putting together some burritos, and he was adding spinach because he knew he needed to add more veggies,” Shire says.

The program uses hands-on activities, including cooking, menu planning and budgeting to help families make healthy lifestyle choices. Lessons are based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A recent participant, who attended group classes in Laramie County, reported EFNEP allowed the participant to cook more meals at home that were healthier and use meal preparation practices to help save money each month.

Another participant in Fremont County, who first took a class in the participant’s home in 1991, reported proper food storage was one skill learned through EFNEP that the participant continues to use today.

For more information about EFNEP, call the CNP state office at (307) 766-5181.

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