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Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Program Enhances Public Savings

Posted: December 22, 2014

Penn State Extension's Nutrition Links program offers opportunities for families and youth to improve their nutritional and food safety practices -- improvements that can lead to public savings.

Obesity, poor health and limited physical activity are major health concerns. The Penn State Extension Nutrition Links program in Lehigh and Northampton counties improves the health and well-being of limited resource families and youth.

Nutrition Links also leads to public savings. Research shows that better health is associated with reduced health care costs, less absenteeism from work and less dependence on emergency food assistance.

Using a research-based, interactive approach, nutrition education advisers from the communities they support reached more than 370 family members and 638 youth in 2014. More than 75 percent of Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program families report living at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and approximately 78 percent indicate being of minority status.

This is important because poor health disproportionately affects minority and limited-resource audiences. Small changes lead to healthier families and communities.

Graduates have shown improvements in:

  • Food resources -- 71 percent of participants showed improvement in one or more food resource management practice, such as planning meals, comparing prices, maintaining food supply or using grocery lists. Graduates saved on average $173 a month in family food budget through applied practices.
  • Nutritional Practices -- 83 percent of participants showed improvement in one or more nutrition practice, such as planning meals, making healthy food choices, preparing food without adding salt, reading nutrition labels, or having children eat breakfast.
  • Food Safety Practices -- 62 percent of participants showed improvement in one or more food safety practice, such as thawing and storing foods correctly.
  • Health and well-being -- 49 percent of participants showed an increase in physical activity.