A University of Wyoming nutrition program is adding to its services by hurdling COVID-19 social distancing barriers and offering online nutrition classes to individuals through partner agencies.
The Cent$ible Nutrition Program halted in person classes earlier this year but recently completed training for Overture, which provides services and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has offices in Wyoming, New Mexico and along the Colorado Front Range.
“When COVID-19 hit in March, CNP was able to pivot and change our programming,” said Mindy Meuli, CNP director. “We are branching out and exploring new ways of delivering nutrition and physical activity education while looking for opportunities to partner with community organizations.”
Part of that branching out includes offering online classes to clients of partner agencies. Classes with partner organizations were put on hold in spring, but this summer Laramie County CNP educator Kelsi Goldfarb started thinking through how to make classes possible for client groups while maintaining social distancing.
In July, leadership at Overture asked CNP about the possibility of classes.
“The partnership with Overture began by them reaching out after they heard about the program through Goodwill, which I worked with last spring,” said Goldfarb. “This was the first online group class that I have taught.”
This was also the start of online group classes for CNP and through some coordination with Overture, ended up being just what Overture clients wanted.
“Zoom worked really well with the participants,” said Kell Poniatowski, a coordinator at Overture. “They could hear the program very clearly and participate really well.”
Once a week, Goldfarb taught the nutrition portion of the lesson via Zoom, and coordinators at Overture helped participants make that week’s CNP recipe.
“We had the clients work in different groups prepping the meal,” said Poniatowski. “Each of them had a turn stirring ingredients, measuring, reading the recipe, or serving the snack to everyone. These recipes were easy to follow and great for the clients to make as a group.”
Cooking the CNP recipes each week gave some of the participants the tools they needed to meet their goals, such as making some healthy changes to their diets.
“Cent$ible Nutrition has given me great recipes to add more vegetables into my meals each day,” said one participant. “I love how quick and easy these recipes are.”
For other participants, some of the activities Goldfarb led over Zoom ended up changing the choices they make every day.
“Learning about the Think Your Drink was so eye opening with the amount of sugar I was consuming over a year span,” a participant said. “I am working toward cutting soda out, but I have dropped from 6 to 3 sodas a week and have a lot more energy for my physical activity that we also have increased to 45 minutes per day.”
Poniatowski echoed the comment and noted that, “Being able to see the number of calories and sugar in different items that we are using on a day-to-day basis has been a big take-away. Each of the clients are now so much more aware of reading the labels when shopping.”
Partners still learned the value of reading Nutrition Fact labels, living an active lifestyle, practicing food safety and applying cooking skills to prepare their own meals, according to Goldfarb.
Poniatowski indicated the online format also helped meet participant needs.
“This format really allowed those who needed to move about the room during the class time be able to and not disrupt others, and it also allowed the clients to do things together such as the exercise videos and use the materials,” said Poniatowski, who added she would recommend the online format to other agencies.
Goldfarb said two other agencies are scheduled for online sessions.