URI’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program educates low-income families in R.I.

Serves Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Newport, West Warwick

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KINGSTON, R.I.- January 10, 2018- The University of Rhode Island’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program has been providing critical food and exercise information to vulnerable members of the community since 1968.

This year, the program is using a new curriculum and hopes participation will exceed the 468 families who enrolled last year.

The nine-week course is offered at different times throughout the year, with the next session starting Tuesday, Jan. 23, and continuing every Tuesday until Mar. 20 from 12:30 until 2 p.m. This program will be held at the West Warwick Health Equality Zone Hub, 1229 Main St., West Warwick, R.I.

The federally funded program, which is part of URI’s Cooperative Extension, was started during the 1960s in an effort to educate the community during a time of widespread malnutrition. Now 50 years later, in a nation where being overweight or obese is one of the major causes of morbidity, the program aims to help some of the state’s most vulnerable populations serve their families good quality food on a budget. In addition to West Warwick, the program serves Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Newport, but other Rhode Island residents are welcome to participate.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program is an opportunity for participants to engage in hands-on nutrition education through workshop-style classes where educators facilitate learning and participants can work in small groups,” said Katie Mulligan, the program’s director. “Attendees work together to come up with ways to improve health and nutrition and engage in weekly cooking exercises where they get geared up, complete with aprons and hairnets, to prepare a healthy meal to be served to the entire group.”

The program is not solely based on food, though. Participants also engage in aerobic and physical activities to emphasize the importance of a well balanced lifestyle that extends beyond the kitchen. These programs are facilitated by URI staff members who live in the communities they are serving.

“Our main goal is to disseminate University-based research in the most effective way possible to people who would benefit greatly from it,” said Mulligan. “We hope that participants are able to improve their diets by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing the amount of money spent on food each month. The confidence to be gained through this program is something that continues far past its end.”

In 2016, the program held 39 adult workshops, from which 216 families received a certificate of graduation. Certificates are awarded to families and individuals who attend at least seven of the nine free workshops. Mulligan says that graduate certificates are far more valuable than they appear, as some participants have cited them on their resumes to show commitment to a program and the acquisition of new skills.

The program conducted more than 134 youth programs last year, from which 2,184 local children graduated.

“This program has a profound impact and can truly be life changing to some of these families,” explained Mulligan. “In a world where healthcare is so expensive, this program helps the people who need it most and has proven positive results which should be taken advantage of.”

Another course offering is available from Friday, Apr. 6 through June 8 at the Tri-Community Action Agency, 33 Maple Ave. North Providence, R.I. These sessions will be held from 1 until 2:30 p.m.

Contact kmulligan@uri.edu for more information and to register for the course.

Olivia Ross, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations major, wrote this press release.