By: Ruthie Losavio
Baton Rouge, La. (7/16/20) — The LSU AgCenter is using technology to transform the way it offers nutrition classes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the past, nutrition agents and educators offered lessons in a face-to-face setting. With the virus persisting, the AgCenter has adapted nutrition lessons to a virtual format.
“The benefit of offering online nutrition education classes is that we can still connect with our audiences and provide them with research-based nutrition information while remaining safe during the pandemic,” said Sandra May, instructor and registered dietitian in the AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences. “It also allows us the opportunity to explore alternative ways to reach our audiences who may not be able to attend face-to-face classes in the future.”
The virtual nutrition lessons were developed by representatives from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and
Flavors of Health nutrition program.
“We wanted to be able to continue to offer nutrition education because eating right and exercising are increasingly important to an individual’s overall wellbeing,” said Sharman Charles, EFNEP program manager. “Our goal is to offer lessons to clientele that meet their needs and are easily accessible.”
The nutrition lessons cover topics such as healthful eating and meal planning, managing food dollars, physical activity and food safety. Lessons will be offered for both adult and youth audiences.
The virtual lessons will include a 20- to 25-minute interactive segment and a brief prerecorded food demonstration for healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes. The entire length of each segment will be about 30 minutes.
“We had to make sure that the lessons are informative, interesting and interactive,” said Elizabeth Martin, assistant nutrition agent for Caddo and Bossier parishes. “Sometimes we take for granted our ability to interact with clients in a personal manner. But when you take away the face-to-face dynamic, you have to really step up your game to keep your audience engaged.”
Virtual nutrition lessons will be offered both directly through the LSU AgCenter and in collaboration with community partners. Partner organizations may include local libraries, WIC offices, healthcare groups and other state agencies.
“My partnerships with the libraries during COVID-19 have given me the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” said Amanda Gibson, assistant extension agent for Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. “Because the libraries were unable to host in-person programs, I offered to do virtual videos that could be shared on social media to help them meet their outreach goals. This also provided me with the opportunity to do outreach and recruit for our upcoming virtual programs.”
Individuals who have a computer, tablet or smartphone you will be able to join through a link provided by the AgCenter or a community partner. Those without one of these devices will have an opportunity to participate by phone.
Individuals who are interested in attending a series of virtual nutrition lessons can contact their local LSU AgCenter extension office and ask for a nutrition agent or educator. Information will also be available on social media.