Erath County extension agent Donna White has made it her mission to spread the health to children and adults in the area by partnering with others to host educational programs.
“In extension what we do best is educational programming to the community, that’s our mission,” White said. “Every five years we have what’s called an issues ID process where we bring people in from the community from all different walks of life to say, ‘What are the major issues in our county?’”
The last time the committee met was 2015 when the topic of healthy eating was brought up, which included issues like food insecurity, packing healthy lunches, portion control and making healthier choices when eating out.
White got together with Ellen Wells, a registered dietician with Texas Health Hospital Stephenville, to brainstorm ways to reach the community for healthy lifestyle goals.
The two formed a task force that now includes Tarleton State University nursing students, and started giving programs to area schools.
“We make an effort to go in to junior high and fifth and sixth grade to talk about nutrition awareness and what that simply means is teaching young people how to make good, healthy choices,” White said. “We believe that small steps is the way you climb that mountain. You can’t do everything at once, it’s too overwhelming, and people just shut down.”
They started talking to people about eating at home more and telling them about the programs like the Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School.
Another program they offer is Learn, Grow, Eat & Go.
“We just finished this program in Dublin and Lingleville and it’s divided into learning about plants. The growing is actually about planting a garden, so they planted a garden so the kids could watch it,” White said. “Then the eat part is what I did and they got to sample 10 different vegetables to see if they liked it. Then they got to help me cook two recipes and they loved them.”
Another way the issue is being addressed is through food camps in the summer in partnership with Tarleton.
White also visits area companies to provide demonstrations on how to cook quick, healthy meals.
“Everybody wants it to be quick because they don’t have a lot of time,” she said.
White also visits the Christian Women’s Job Core in Dublin, providing nutrition programs twice a month.
“We do a cooking school the last day where they actually learn to cook a meal for themselves,” White said. “We all need practice, not only with cooking, but making healthy choices. We try to reach adults, children and families in general.”
These programs are needed based off the obesity statistics, White said.
“When I talk to parent groups I always say, ‘You’ve got to be the example because you can say it all you want, but kids are watching you more than they’re listening.’ We all know this, we’re not giving that much new information, it’s just techniques to help families implement what they know when they’re busy,” White said.