By Seth Truscott, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

This month, Washington State University Extension nutrition educators celebrate the 50th anniversary of a national program that helps Northwest families improve nutrition and health: The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

Launched in 1969 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) began as a pilot project responding to the link between poverty and poor nutrition. Today, the program is delivered with help from community partners and is focused on solving the epidemic of obesity and food insecurity.

WSU Extension officially marked the program’s 50th year on Jan. 15. Nationally and locally, agencies will celebrate the occasion throughout the year by sharing accomplishments with community partners and compiling healthy recipes from every state and territory.

“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we’re most proud of the changes that our participants make in their lives and families after taking our classes,” said M. Catalina Aragón, Extension’s Interim State EFNEP Lead.

Responding to a need

In Washington state, half of residents report low levels of physical activity. About 30 percent of Washington adults are obese, 16 percent have Type 2 diabetes or are prediabetic, and 16 percent of families with children are food‑insecure.

Last year in Washington, ENFEP directly reached more than a thousand adults and 2,000 children, and more than 4,400 family members indirectly. More than 95 percent of adults and 80 percent of children who graduate from WSU Extension’s EFNEP classes saw improved diet quality, 63 percent of adults were able to improve food security, and more than 80 percent of adults improved their activity levels and food safety practices.

The nine‑week course is delivered by peer educators who are part of the communities they serve, “which makes our program very powerful,” Aragón said.

“Our EFNEP graduates improve their diets and nutrition practices, stretch their food dollars farther, handle food more safely and increase their physical activity levels,” she added. Graduates cook more meals at home, eat proper portion sizes, boost health and self‑esteem and raise families with healthier behaviors.

These results show why ENFEP remains at the forefront of education efforts to improve healthy behaviors and reduce nutrition insecurity for all Americans, Aragón said.

Learn more about WSU Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program efforts.

Learn more about the national EFNEP program.