|Upcoming Extension service program helps people stretch their food dollars|
|Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor|
Aug. 17, 2006 -- Folks looking to save money and shop wiser at the grocery store will be interested in a series presented by Texas Cooperative Extension beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, at the WIC Headquarters located at 1400 College St.
“I know this program is making an impact in our community,” said Johanna Hicks, Hopkins County Extension agent and Family & Consumer Sciences Agent/Educator. “’Better Living For Texans’ has reached 760 individuals in Hopkins County since January of this year.”
Through the “Better Living For Texans” program, individuals are taught food resource management skills through a four-part series.
The first lesson, “Shopping Strategies to Stretch Your Food Dollar,” focuses on practices to help families save money by using grocery store ads, comparing store brands to name brands, observing unit prices and sticking to a shopping list.
“One participant quoted, ‘I learned to take inventory of the foods I already have and plan meals around those items,’” recalled Hicks, who has taught health and nutrition, among other things such as diabetes education, clothing and parenting, during her 10 years as an Extension agent. “I try to practice what I preach. I’ve literally had people watching me in the grocery store and selecting the same items I select.”
The second lesson “Food Safety and You,” identifies four steps to keeping food safe. Discussions will include understanding what causes food-borne illness and the safest way to determine if food has been cooked properly.
Hicks said this is a very “eye-opening class,” due to the fact that each year 76 million Americans experience some form of food-borne illness.
“Infants, children, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible,” she explained.
The third lesson clarifies the new “MyPyramid” food guide system, and helps participants learn the importance of balancing food intake with physical activity, how to select foods that limit saturated or trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar, as well as the importance of a variety of foods every day.
“Physical activity is a major part of a healthy lifestyle,” Hicks said. “Nutrition also plays a key role in your overall health and well-being.”
Serving sizes also come into the conversation with this lesson.
The fourth lesson is new to the program, according to Hicks. It is “Common Pantry Pests.”
“It focuses on identifying and treating pests found in the home, specifically around the kitchen,” she said.
The ISEC plan -- Identify, Sanitize, Exclude and Control-- covers the four steps that will be taught to help keep pests out of the home or reduced in numbers for longer periods of time.
Participants will also be armed with information needed to keep food and surfaces sanitized.
Other lessons that tie in with this series deal with healthy snacking, fun physical activities for the family, taming the holiday season with healthy eating, coping with finicky eaters, and better meals with better planning.
Handouts, activities, and giveaway items that relate to each topic, such as refrigerator thermometers, hot pads, coupon holders, etc, accompany each lesson.
Extension agents reach only a fraction of the population, according to Hicks, but together, they are reaching thousands of Texas families with key information that help save money, eat healthier and protect lives.
In addition to the Friday, Aug. 18, date “Shopping Strategies to Stretch Your Food Dollar” is scheduled for Sept. 8, and Sept. 22, beginning at 9 a.m. and presented every 30 minutes until 11:30 a.m.
Currently, the “Better Living for Texans” program of Hopkins County is presented at the Early Childhood Learning Center on the fourth Tuesday of each month, and on two Fridays each month at the WIC office.
For more information, call 903-885-3726.