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Josephine Espinoza, left, and Nancy Winter, from the University of Minnesota Extension nutrition program, present information Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners about an education program they provide to residents who receive food support. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Nutrition education enhances county food support program

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Families who come to the Kandiyohi County Family Services Dep-artment seeking assistance to buy food are getting an education in nutrition to help stretch their food support dollars.

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Offered are tips on menu planning, food handling and how to shop for foods rich in nutrition. The information is provided twice a month by the University of Minnesota Extension's "Simply Good Eating" program, funded in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The program is beneficial to low-income residents as it helps participants make good nutrition decisions with food support dollars, said Nancy Winter, nutrition education assistant with the Extension program in Kandiyohi County.

Winter and Josephine Espinoza, an Extension nutrition education assistant who coordinates the nutrition program, made a presentation Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

The women provide nutrition education in a variety of venues but have found one of the best places to reach people is at the Family Services office, where clients receive financial assistance to feed their families, said Winter, adding that about 1 percent of the federal support money is dedicated to fund nutritional education.

"We show them how to stretch their EBT card," said Espinoza.

"It makes people think what they can do with their EBT money. If we all work together, we can help people."

The program includes some incentives, like a meat and refrigerator thermometer, and instructions on how to use them. Participants also are given envelopes for storing coupons and a tablet for making a grocery list that includes reminders about inexpensive staples that can be purchased to make the nutrition dollars go further.

"A lot of our clients have never done menu planning," said Espinoza, who said participants find that aspect of the education helpful.

Family Services Director Jay Kieft said the education program is a good reminder that "we are a health services (provider) and this is about the nutrition and health of our community."

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