Local program provides assistance

Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer

IWhat do you do if you or your spouse loses a job drastically reducing the amount of dollars going into the bank account each week? Or perhaps a family member is diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes, and you need to learn how to correctly cook meals according to their dietary restrictions. Where can one go to learn how to stretch a limited grocery budget to purchase the healthy foods your family needs?

The Family Nutrition Program (FNP), a division of the Ripley County Purdue Extension in Osgood, can assist anyone with all types of household needs. According to Debby Black, family nutrition assistant, the FNP provides informal educational programs that teach skills which will improve the quality of life of an individual, family, and community.

Sponsored by Purdue University and funded by a grant through the USDA Food Stamp Program, the FNP is in almost all of the counties in the state. These free classes are available to any one within any income level, according to Black.

Classes are tailored to the specific needs of the client. Got a picky eater? There’s a class for that. Want to improve communication at family meal times? Black can give you strategies to encourage your kids to talk. Need to learn how to cook? Black can provide easy, healthy recipes and teach you how to cook them.

There are health and nutrition classes for pregnant teens as well as classes on shopping on a tight grocery budget. A person recently diagnosed with diabetes can learn all about a low-carb diet and how to make the best food choices when grocery shopping or dining out.

Black will meet with a client at any location requested. For instance, she can arrange classes in the home, at the extension office in Osgood, or even at another public place such as the library.

Once a month, Black visits the food pantry in Milan providing nutritious recipes, information on portion sizes and the FNP newsletter. At the Buckeye Senior Center in Osgood, she will talk about the changes to the body as it ages, how to use spices to flavor foods when on a sodium restricted diet, or strategies on eating alone. A recent class held at the library showed participants where to cut out the little expenses that add up to bigger ones.

According to Black, she meets with a person an average of six times, but will work with a client as long as needed. “I learn almost as much from the participants as they learn from me,” she said. Purdue also provides a small incentive at the completion of the course, such as a measuring cup or cookbook.

Black has been helping families in the extension service area since 2005. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Consumer and Family Sciences from Purdue University. “I really like the job,” she noted. “I like helping turn challenges into victories.” The best part, she says, is seeing the aha! moment when a person realizes that they really can make a change in their life.

Clients come to Black through a referral from an agency such as WIC or Family Connections in Versailles or by directly calling the extension office. At the initial visit, Black will work with the client to evaluate the need, and then she will create a program to address that specific need.
More information on the Family Nutrition Program can be found by calling the Ripley County Purdue Extension office at 812-689-6511 or by visiting www.cfs.purdue.edu/extension.