For more than 40 years, K-State Research and Extension has been reaching young families and youth with limited resources -- those most at risk to suffer from hunger and food insecurity -- through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.
PHOTO: EFNEP assistant Bertha Mendoza explains a product label to students Guillermina Flores (left) and Veronica Castro.
Help to Combat Hunger
In the breadbasket of America, it's difficult to imagine that people are hungry.
But recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report on hunger in America, noting that in 2010 14.5 percent of Kansans — nearly 400,000 people, equal to 1 in 7 — had difficulty providing adequate food, which the USDA terms food insecurity.
And, 1 in 20 Kansans — or 5 percent — are in a state of very low food security, which means unable to regularly provide food. Kevin Concannon, the undersecretary for USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said food assistance programs across the country are part of the solution.
"USDA's report underscores the critical role that federal nutrition assistance programs play in helping struggling American families put food on the table until they can get back on their feet," Concannon said.
Two K-State Research and Extension programs are helping families cope with this issue. The Family Nutrition Program, known nationally as the SNAP-Ed
program reaches about 60,000 people in more than 70 Kansas counties.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) was established in 1969 to help young families better feed themselves and their children. It’s available in nine Kansas counties and in 2010 included nearly 1,400 families and 5,700 youth who participated in local programs.
Both programs aim to help low-income families focus on food safety, cooking skills, food resource management, and nutrition education.
Since 2010, K-State Research and Extension program assistant Bertha Mendoza, a native of Chihuaha, Mexico, has been teaching EFNEP classes to many Garden City residents whose native language is Spanish. By the end of 2011, 80 will have graduated from the 12-course program.
One of those is Veronica Castro, who has become an advocate for EFNEP to the local Hispanic community.
"People come to her house and taste the food that she's making. They like it, and she says here's the program if you want to participate," Mendoza said. "I'm really impressed at how the Hispanic community has been affected in a positive way and how they like to recommend us."
It's an easy sell for Castro and her family: "Eating healthy meals is expensive, but throughout these classes, we have learned that we can eat healthy despite having a low budget. Bertha understands what we like to eat. She can help us eat more healthy, while continuing to eat what we want to eat."
One of Mendoza's key messages is that eating healthfully is just as important as stretching a family's limited dollars.
"For example, a case of pop costs more than a gallon of milk," she said. "We compare the nutrition: a soft drink versus a glass of milk. The calories are about the same, but the nutrition value is higher in milk than a soft drink. It's up to them to make the decision: I can spend $5 for a case of pop, or I can spend $5 for
"Usually by the second class they'll come back and say, 'It really helped me out. We don't have any more pop at home, or we just have it occasionally. The $5 that I was using for pop now I'm putting into milk. And I'm feeling good for my family."
To view an audio slide story, go to www.ksre.ksu.edu/hunger.
Bertha Mendoza, 620-275-9164, firstname.lastname@example.org