The Master Food Volunteer Program was created by K-State Research and Extension in 2002 and has been adopted by 17 states. Volunteers receive 40 hours of training and, in return, provide 40 hours of volunteer service to their community.
PHOTO: Normal Falwell, a retired school librarian, completed Master Food Volunteer training in 2004. Here she teaches basic cooking skills to a Johnson County Girl Scout.
Programs Promote Food, Nutrition, Health for All
Health professionals tout the benefits of breakfast. Bypassing the morning meal can mean less energy and endurance, a reduced ability to focus, and a tendency to eat more calories with less nutritive value during the day.
Breakfast is important at any age, and that’s why Tranda Watts, K-State multicounty nutrition specialist, asked the question: "What happens to children who qualify for free or reduced cost breakfasts when school ends?"
Watts learned that 49 to 76 percent of elementary school students in Norton County qualify for free or reduced cost school breakfasts and lunches.
To fill the gap, Watts developed a two-week cooking class -- Breakfast 101 -- to teach third- through fifth-graders how to choose health-promoting foods and make a meal. She sought support from the local school, which offered facilities and grant funding to make it happen.
Fifty-five percent of participating youth reported improved ability to name the five food groups and foods that should only be eaten occasionally, she said.
Fifty percent reported making at least one of the recipes at home from the USDA’s Kids A Cookin’ video series developed by K-State Research and Extension, said Watts, who noted that attendees are already asking when the next class will be held.
In southeastern Kansas, Ann Ludlum, Southwind District agent, offers three-day summer cooking classes for second- through fifth-graders.
Ludlum's summer classes supplement K-State Research and Extension’s nutrition education in the classroom and cover the basics, from handwashing to safe use of kitchen tools (chopping vegetables is an example), and acquaint students with a greater variety of foods.
In Johnson County, agent and registered dietitian Nichole Burnett is working with Master Food Volunteers to teach area youth, including Girl Scouts, kitchen basics in preparing healthy meals and snacks.
The Master Food Volunteer Program, now in its tenth year, provides 40 hours of training in food safety, food science, food preparation, and food preservation to volunteers who then share their knowledge with other individuals and groups.
"Creating hands-on opportunities to help children learn about food, nutrition, health, and basic cooking helps to build a healthier life — and lifestyle," Burnett said.
While youth nutrition education programs hold the promise of lifelong benefits, K-State Research and Extension nutrition education programs begin before birth and continue throughout the lifespan, said Sandy Procter, K-State Research and Extension nutrition specialist.
"You truly are what you eat," said Procter, who focuses on research-based, consumer-friendly nutrition education.
Examples include introducing children to a variety of health-promoting foods; meal planning, preparation and healthy portion control for families of all sizes with diverse heritage; planning snacks to contribute to health, and food safety and security within the home, while also encouraging food choices that contribute to health and prevent or ease symptoms of disease.
Procter, a registered dietitian, serves as the K-State Research and Extension coordinator for USDA's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education (EFNEP) and Family Nutrition (FNP) programs. She also was invited to review at the national level how EFNEP programming meets the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.