“We are really trying to reach out across Lucas County, just to promote healthy lifestyles through education on healthy eating, being physically active,” said Ms. Serda. “We have a curriculum we are following, helping folks through the food groups and giving them ideas on how to shop and save and economically prepare proper meals. With the way things are going, every little bit helps.”
The nutrition program can be seen as an anti-poverty program, because it helps financially-struggling families learn how to find and prepare low-cost, nutritious foods in an appealing way—including fresh produce.
“We’re definitely looking at those folks who are low-income, especially families who have children in the home,” explained Ms. Serda.
The federal government has changed its official nutrition information in recent years. What used to be “the food pyramid” is now called “my plate” (http://myplate.gov/), which instructs individuals on proper serving sizes and how many servings per day are appropriate for a given age group.
Because of financial and transportation challenges, many central-city Latino families are limited in where they can shop for food. Some neighborhoods don’t have access to a grocery store—leaving some families eating packaged and processed food.
“If there is no grocery store, what is available—corner stores, places like that,” said Ms. Serda. “We just try to take that into consideration and try to give them more things to think about.”
The ultimate goal is to increase the client’s health and try to create awareness, if it’s not already there, about healthier lifestyles.
Ms. Serda, a sports management major in college, sees her new role as a continuation of a career that always has been aimed at helping Latino families. Her education and experience are blended in her new role.
“I just love being able to work out in the community. Promoting healthy lifestyles is something I’ve always enjoyed doing,” she said. “This is a new way to incorporate that with working in the community. It’s nice to be able to pull from both of those and do my part.”
The OSU Extension runs an eight-week class for adults for about an hour each weekly session. Youth classes also are available. Those classes run six weeks, either in-school or after-school.
“Every week we do a tasting, provide them with a recipe to make what’s featured in the tasting, then give them an ‘enhancement tool,’” said Ms. Serda, a reference to kitchen utensils such as measuring cups or spoons.
The classes are essentially a series of lessons taught by Ms. Serda and other trained paraprofessionals that include hands-on activities and food demonstrations to make learning to eat healthy a fun and interesting experience. Classes are designed to encourage self-sufficiency skills and lifelong healthy eating habits. Sessions, offered in both English and Spanish, include samples of low-cost nutritious recipes, educational videos, games, and hands-on activities.
Participants learn a number of skills, including:
· how to stretch food dollars to last the whole month;
· how to prepare simple, tasty, nutritious meals for the family;
· how to read and understand food labels for nutrition and savings;
· how to prepare favorite foods while lowering fat and cholesterol content;
· how to prepare and store food safely.
Classes began last week at Adelante, Inc., 520 Broadway, for Latino families, but the OSU Extension can add more students to the sessions there, one which runs on Wednesdays and another on Fridays. Both sessions start at 10:00 a.m.
“We are actively looking for new sites to make this an ongoing thing,” said Ms. Serda.
Anyone interested in signing up for nutrition classes or offering a new site can call the OSU Extension office at 419.213.2006 or email Ms. Serda directly at [email protected].