MSUE EFNEP educates refugees on healthy, safe eating

Anna Tran and Lucia Rogers, Michigan State University Extension Ingham County program assistants in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), completed a six-week series in May and June for 21 refugees. Originally from Bhutan, these families came to Lansing after living in Nepalese refugee camps. St. Vincent Catholic Charities supplied the MSUE staff members with three translators that attended each session that took place once a week for 2 hours.

 When the program began, the families typically ate food very high in saturated fat, using large amounts of butter in all of their cooking. The lessons concentrated on using less butter in food preparation and eating low-fat foods, and encouraged eating more frequent meals in smaller portion sizes.

 The MSUE staff members helped the participants locate food stores that carried items at lower cost than those at the small neighborhood convenience stores where they did most of their shopping. The change enabled the parents to have enough money to supply their children with more meals and snacks throughout the day.

 All lessons promoted food safety. The group worked on washing hands with warm water and soap, and learned to refrigerate foods instead of storing them outside.

 By the third session, the staff realized that they had effected a major behavior change when participants stood up and began to line up to wash their hands before the food preparation. According to Extension educator Joyce McGarry, this was a huge step in understanding food safety and the prevention of illness. Joyce notes that the program evaluations, completed with help from staff and translators, showed a 100 percent improvement in washing hands.

 The EFNEP assists families and youth living in low-income situations in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes and changed behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets. It also assists in contributing to their personal development and the improvement of total family diet and nutritional welfare.

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