A New Step for Community Wellness

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New opportunities are developing for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County in the area of Family and Consumer Sciences. In 2014, North Carolina Cooperative Extension created a new strategic plan and Extension’s services were redefined to focus on the areas of agriculture, food, and 4-H youth development. For Family and Consumer Sciences, this means addressing nutrition and food safety related issues. Having recently started as the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Lee County, I am very excited to contribute to this new vision. This spring, two new grant funded staff members will join Family and Consumer Science programming, increasing Extension’s outreach. Looking forward, North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County has a unique opportunity to collaborate with the community to build upon current county initiatives and achievements related to nutrition.

Programming will address the community’s major food related needs. Currently, obesity is a top health issue in Lee, as well as chronic diseases that are linked to obesity such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Food insecure individuals are especially vulnerable to obesity and chronic diseases related to diet. In 2014, Feeding America estimated that 15.7% of Lee County is food insecure. That means that about 9,300 community members, due to a lack of resources, are struggling to avoid hunger. Alongside these issues will be the priority of food safety and prevention of foodborne illnesses. According to the CDC, “each year roughly 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.” Practicing safe food handling can help prevent food borne illness at all levels of the food system.

Extension plans to tackle these issues as a whole by addressing both external and internal factors. For instance, to help reduce obesity, evidence based programming centered around nutrition education helps one in understanding the importance of a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Skill development is also important; learning to eat healthy on a budget and prepare different foods support the ability to create healthy changes. Extension will also work on increasing access to healthy foods and promote safe areas for physical activity. Food safety will be addressed by working with food service managers as well as those preparing meals at home. Extension will continue to embrace technology in outreach and education as well as opportunities for hands-on, face-to-face learning.

This new step for Family and Consumer Sciences is an exciting one with potential to reach out to even more of the community. With collaboration, there is great opportunity to further address many factors that influence nutrition and food safety. Do you have a question that is related to food, food safety, or nutrition? Contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County at 919-775-5624.

The goal for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.