Steps to Health

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This time of year is my favorite time of year. Why might you ask? Because I get to do SNAP-Ed’s Steps to Health program at Butler Avenue with the 3rd graders! The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) serves limited resource individuals and families across North Carolina. SNAP-Ed is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Food and Nutrition Service and works in collaboration with the NC Department of Health and Humans Services, Division of Social Services.

The goal of SNAP-Ed is to assist those eligible for food assistance to eat smart and move more. SNAP-Ed works to help participants make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. NC State University’s SNAP-Ed Program is Steps to Health. Steps to Health provides nutrition education programs for preschoolers, kindergarteners, 2nd grade students, 3rd grade students, adults, Latino families, and older adults. The Steps to Health program is delivered by county-based NC Cooperative Extension Agents across North Carolina as well as SNAP-Ed Educators from NC State University.

If you have a 3rd grader who goes to Butler Avenue, you may have received some “homework” that your child has told you Ms. Sydney said you have to do. This “homework” is a way for the students to share what they learn in class with their families. Each week we cover a new topic. We start off with the MyPlate, where students learn what the different food groups are and how they should be incorporating them in their diet. In this section we stress that half of their plate should be fruits and vegetables. We also cover physical activity, more details about the various food groups, how to read nutrition labels, and making smart beverage choices. At each session, a lesson is presented and following the lesson, students get to participate in a taste test. The goal of the taste test is to get them to try new foods or maybe foods they’ve had before but to try them in a different setting. This makes the idea of trying something new more exciting. We tell the kids that all of the food is purchased at a local grocery store, Food Lion, and they are able to go shopping and pick these things up if they really enjoyed them. We hope this helps them make healthier food choices.

I love working with the children because they are so eager to learn something new. I am always surprised by all they absorb during our short time together and love hearing about the foods they are eating more of at home! I am also very fortunate to have an enormous amount of support for this program. The Clinton City Nutrition staff, Jeff Swartz and Rita Corbett, assist with the delivery of the program. Each week, Jeff and/or Rita assists with each lesson when able and helps the students to understand how the foods they eat at school tie into the MyPlate guidelines. We also could not provide this program as effectively without the support of the Butler Avenue team. Principal Turlington, the cafeteria manager, Angie, and all of the 3rd grade teachers have welcomed us into their space and provide assistance with the program in whatever way possible. I hope to reach more schools with this program in the future. Please let me know if you would like me to bring this program to your school, or if you want to know more about the Steps to Health program, please call the Sampson County Extension office.