PUYALLUP – A 20 percent increase in the budget for Washington state’s Food Stamp Nutrition Education Plan means that WSU Extension educators and their partners will be able to reach more school-aged children and their families with research-based information about how best to spend scarce food dollars.

The Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a total budget for the state of $15.9 million for FY08, approximately a 20 percent increase over the previous year. It includes $8.3 million in federal funding and $7.6 million in state and local cost share funds.

WSU Extension Food Sense Program Coordinator Elaine Mayes says the increased budget for the Food Stamp Nutrition Education program will enable it to reach more young people.

“We will be starting a new program in Klickitat County, bringing the number of counties the WSU program serves to 29,” said Mayes. “But primarily the funding increase will enable us to reach more school-aged youth in all theareas we serve.”

Nutrition education programs for food stamp-eligible adults and youth are provided through a partnership of the WSU Extension nutrition education program in the College of Pharmacy and the state Department of Social and Health Services. The state Department of Health also participates in the program under a separate contract.

The WSU contract with DSHS has a total budget for FY08 of $11.1 million, a 21.6 percent increase over the past year. The remaining $4.8 million in the total budget will fund the programs administered by the Department of Health.

WSU Associate Vice President and Dean of Extension Linda Kirk Fox says that county extension offices, numerous partner agencies and organizations and the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center are involved in delivering nutrition education to eligible recipients throughout the state. The program complements food assistance programs by providing recipients with experiential education that builds the skills needed to provide themselves and their families with nutritious, low-cost and safe food.

“There are actually more than 300 partners in the state who commit time and resources to helping get information to those who need it most to help them provide their families with nutritious meals on very tight budgets,” Fox said. “Their contributions are what comprise the state and local cost share that is matched by federal funds for this crucial program.”

Fox points out that in addition to the benefits of nutrition education the program provides job opportunities, particularly in rural areas and for four tribal partners.

“This educational outreach program alone helps the economy of local communities by providing more than 170 jobs across the state, and that’s especially important in rural areas with few employment opportunities,” she said.

Cost/benefit studies of nutrition education programs in general have concluded that they return about $10 in benefits in terms of reduced future health care costs for each dollar invested.