FARMINGTON — Franklin County Adult and Community Education has partnered with the Healthy Community Coalition to provide its students with nutrition education opportunities in a classroom setting.
Director of Adult Education Nancy Allen said the idea for the course came from strategic planning; educators were looking for a way to bridge the gap between life skills learned in the classroom and those learned at home, and students expressed an interest in meal planning and budgeting.
Sandra Brown, College Transitions Coordinator, explained the value of working together to deliver such a program as part of adult education.
“We usually have a few students who don’t talk to each other in class, so it’s created an amazing sense of community for them…food always brings people together,” Brown said. “Food insecurity is so rampant among 16 to 20 year olds, but nobody wants to talk about it and you don’t always know what people need until they tell you. Luckily for us, our students are willing to disclose what they need.
With nine students currently enrolled, classes average an hour, but if the conversation is going well, Brown encourages him to keep going. She hopes to be able to take another six-week course before the end of the school year, but she also hopes to be able to expand the program and open classes to the whole community.
Students also learn much more than meal planning and budgeting: they learn to consult nutrition content labels for facts and ingredients, discuss nutritional values and benefits of ingredients, and review and prepare recipes using class. David Scammon, Education Initiative Coordinator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, brings enough ingredients and equipment to encourage full cooperation, and attendance has never been an issue.
“We mainly focus on increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables. We’re talking about the different food groups and different portion sizes – for this particular class, we’re talking about getting that variety and doing it on a budget,” Scammon said.
Scammon uses program funding to purchase products and make ingredient and cost comparisons between products. He also said that the class data he received as a result of the program has a qualitative advantage.
“They feel more confident — I think that’s the most important thing — that they can make healthier choices. They’re also more enthusiastic about it, from what I’ve seen; not only do you save money and cook food that tastes great, but it’s also fun.