As part of a multi-state team, the University of Wyoming Extension’s Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP) recently earned national recognition for its efforts to connect people facing food insecurity with local produce.
In collaboration with USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) programs in eight other states, CNP has contributed to the Growing Together Multi-State Collaboration. The group’s mission is to improve access to healthy food and provide nutrition and garden education to people experiencing food insecurity.
Over the past three years, Growing Together has collectively donated more than 600,000 pounds of food, equivalent to 1.8 million servings of fruits and vegetables, to 878 food distribution sites serving 375,000 clients.
In recognition of these efforts, the multi-state team received the 2023 National Excellence in Extension Team award from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Cooperative Extension, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).
This award recognizes an extension team for excellence in extension research, technical assistance and outreach education.
In addition to UW, the 2022 Growing Together team included collaborators from Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Montana State University, South Dakota State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin.
The collaboration is ongoing, and has continued to gain momentum as more states join the initiative and existing programs expand.
“Our contribution to the national award has been an impressive collaboration between many Wyoming partners, especially the Wyoming Hunger Initiative – Grow a Little Extra, UW Extension, Master Gardeners, UW Agricultural Experiment Stations, and Food Bank of Wyoming,” says Mindy Meuli, CNP director. “In partnership, we were able to contribute over 35,000 pounds of nutritious foods [in 2022] to people in Wyoming facing food and nutrition insecurity, in addition to providing research-based education.”
CNP educators based in county extension offices across Wyoming helped weigh and distribute food at the county level, working with local food pantries, community gardens, and other anti-hunger organizations. They also led cooking demonstrations and distributed recipes, food preparation tips, and food safety guidelines.
In CNP’s state office in Laramie, staff worked with the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station to coordinate donations of potatoes and dry beans from several UW research and extension centers. They also conducted recipe testing on the donated foods and developed food pairings to encourage food pantry patrons to choose healthier options.
“These efforts help to contribute to nutrition security for those in need, which is a program goal,” says Meuli. “Thanks to all of our partners for joining us in addressing food access for people with limited resources in Wyoming.”
To learn more about CNP programming, visit uwyocnp.org.