Two Programs Highlighted
Penn State Extension serves as the community’s resource, providing practical, trusted information to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future. Extension also has a strong history of partnering with local libraries to offer community educational opportunities on a variety of topics. Two extension programs that have been successfully delivered at local libraries around the state are the Nutrition Links Program and Dining with Diabetes.
Penn State Extension’s Nutrition Links program offers researched-based adult educational classes, which encompasses hands-on activities, physical activities and cooking demonstrations to enhance the quality of nutrition for participants’ families.
Currently, Penn State Extension is reaching out to libraries located in school districts that have 51% free and reduced school lunch eligibility. Nutrition Links program is free to eligible participants who receive SNAP benefits, WIC, and or their children are enrolled in Head Start.
Nutrition Links program is taught weekly in a series of four, two-hour classes. Adult participants are asked to complete confidential paperwork to enroll in the program.
Classes are designed for participants to gain skills to:
- Improve diet and nutritional status
- Select and buy healthy food
- Develop new cooking and food safety skills
- Manage food budgets and resources such as SNAP benefits
- Increase physical activity to achieve better health
Penn State Extension Nutrition Links can provide group impact data, such as behavior changes made by clients in their food selection, in a confidential format. Some comments made from past participants show that the program is valuable and fun! Here are a few: My son reads all the labels now before he picks out a snack or drink! I love all the recipes! My Mom always thawed her meat overnight in the sink. Guess I better not do that anymore.
Penn State Extension’s Dining with Diabetes is a nationally accredited, researched-based program for adults with or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Family members and/or friends are also invited to attend the program. Classes are offered weekly for four weeks, with a three-month follow-up. Participants learn how to prepare meals that are healthy, simple, and tasty. Participants will have the opportunity to help prepare recipes and sample the foods and will also learn up to date information on nutrition, planning, and important diabetes-related medical tests.
A1C, a measure of blood glucose levels and blood pressure will be taken at the first and follow-up classes. Participants are also given incentives such as an exercise DVD, plate method placemat, and a Dining with Diabetes Cookbook.
After taking the class 50% of participants experienced a drop in A1C and 59% saw a drop in blood pressure. Participants also increased their daily physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake and were more confident that they could keep their diabetes under control. Diabetes is a very serious and costly disease, but research has shown that those who learn to manage their blood glucose (sugar) levels, eat healthy, and exercise regularly can lower their risk of complications and lead a healthier and more productive life. For individuals with pre-diabetes lifestyle modification information learned in this class can prevent individuals from developing type 2 diabetes and the complications associated with it.
For more information about these two and other extension programs visit the Penn State Extension website.There you can also find a directory of county extension offices.
Mary R. Ehret, M.S.,R.D.,L.D.N.
Nutrition Links Supervisor in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill, Sullivan and Bradford Counties
Penn State Extension