Parents offered nutrition resource - freetxp

Parents offered nutrition resource

A University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff project seeks to ensure local low-income parents are meeting their children’s nutritional needs and overall well-being.

UAPB 1890 Cooperative Extension Program administrators are collaborating with administrators of the UAPB Early Head Start-Child Care to reach the parents of children Partnership enrolled in four Pine Bluff childcare services.

“UAPB’s Early Head Start program offers the invaluable service of full-time childcare,” said Lonnie Waller Jr., family service coordinator for the program. “The partnership with the Cooperative Extension Program helps ensure parents gain invaluable information on food preparation and nutrition. Participants learn how to cook, interact at the table and serve food.”

The program consists of virtual sessions featuring programming from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed). These programs feature clearly defined goals to enhance participants’ behaviors related to cooking and nutrition.

“Not only are we partnering with EFNEP and SNAP-Ed programs to teach parents how to make healthy meals, but UAPB Extension nutrition educators are also giving participants smart shopping tips and teaching them how to read product labels,” he said. “This is important as it allows parents to choose healthier foods and avoid products high in added sugars, sodium and fat. Parents leave sessions with practical takeaways – for example, knowing to buy their children fruit juice that doesn’t contain added sugars and that Frozen vegetables are healthier than canned vegetables.”

Waller said programming also teaches parents skills in self-sufficiency, communication with children and anger/stress management. Some courses address the specific challenges related to fatherhood and motherhood, while “conversation cafes,” allow participants to hear from educators and ask questions and interact with each other on topics related to parenting and family life.

“The conversation cafes are extremely beneficial to parents as they are able to talk about issues in a relaxed and open environment,” he said. “The fact participants can speak with and get to know each other helps them bond, compare notes about parenting and ask important questions.”

Waller said when it comes to helping others, listening and keeping an open mind is most important.

“Being there to listen is essential because you never know what someone else is going through,” he said. “You may be working with children who are in foster care or perhaps are raised by their grandparents. The parents you speak to may be homeless or perhaps stuck in abusive relationships. The help we provide our clients doesn’t just come from teaching them things – we support them by checking on their current status and well-being through surveys, home visits and simply staying in touch via phone calls and e-mail.”

In his work for the Early Head Start program, Waller said he most appreciates the ability to learn how to help others be successful. He is inspired when children or parent participants benefit from the program.

“Most children who are considered failures at school or who have problems with understanding or listening never had anyone take the time to teach them at an early age,” he said. “Early Head Start gives children the attention, guidance and resources to function in school and achieve overall success in life. We’ve had many success stories over the years, including a child who was formerly considered autistic who went on to become a doctor. “

The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership has nine sites with locations in Bradley, Chicot, Drew and Jefferson counties.

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.

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