Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
COOKING FOR BETTER HEALTH
besity is one of the most serious health problems for children in the United States. Georgia has the 18th highest child obesity rate in the nation. The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) indicated that 32.2% of children aged 10 to 17 were overweight and obesity in 2016. Children with obesity are at increased risk for hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, as well as low self-esteem. Heard County is no exception to the alarming rates of obesity with statistics showing that the county’s obesity and diabetes rates continue to hover above the national average.
For 2019, U.S. News and World Report County Rankings show Heard County with a 30.8% obesity rate which is higher than the national median rate of 28.4%. These same rankings show Heard County with 11.8% of its population with diabetes, also ranking higher than the national median rate of 9.2%. Clearly there was a need for an educational program to teach residents how to cook and eat more nutritionally while yet still being affordable.
The Heard County 4-H agent, a certified Cooking Matters instructor through Tanner Health Systems, has educated different populations within the county on various ways to become healthier and nutritionally savvy. The 4-H agent has offered cooking classes to families and youth of all ages. During classes, participants learn how to properly prepare meats and vegetables, the importance of keeping the food prep area clean to prevent cross contamination, how to read food labels while ignoring false claims on packaging, and learn the correct portion sizes recommended for good health. Brief nutritional lessons, tips and pointers are discussed at the beginning of every class. Participants also learn the importance of teamwork and following a recipe correctly. At each class, a wholesome meal is prepared by the entire team, with each person performing a designated job and learning as they cook. After the food is prepared, the class enjoys a healthy meal they helped to prepare. The families are given a copy of the recipe and are encouraged to prepare the meal at home.
The 4-H agent is also a certified trainer and instructor for teaching other 4-H agents how to teach yoga to youth, as lack of exercise is also a contributor to obesity in addition to poor nutrition habits. The 4-H agent incorporates yoga in day camps, lock-ins and occasionally in monthly meetings.
In addition, the 4-H agent assisted in constructing the first school garden in Heard County at Ephesus Elementary School. Using the garden, the agent taught monthly school garden lessons in addition to hands-on activities.
Cooking Matters participants from years 2014 to early 2019 participated in a survey to evaluate what they learned in the class.
As a result of the Cooking Matters classes 100% of participants learned to identify false claims on packaging and now rely on food labels for content information, 100% understand grocery store layout and don’t fall prey to the placement of convenience items, 100% understand the importance of menu planning and pre-planning meals to stay within budget, 97% are now using healthier recipes, including those from Cooking Matters cookbooks, and 86% are sharing practices that they learned in Cooking Matters class with others.