Making healthy choices | Sampson Independent


Through the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, students learn how to make healthy meals with simple ingredients. – Photo by Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent

Students exercise inside the cafeteria at Union Elementary School. – Photo by Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent

Lethia Lee, an educator for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, helps students make meal plans. – Photo by Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent

Lethia Lee shows students a can of chickpeas, which were used in a snack they sampled. – – Photo by Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent

While holding a platter full of sweet potatoes, green onions, spices and other ingredients, Lethia Lee showed children at Union Elementary School how to make a healthy snack.

Next, they took spoons and tasted how it all came together in the form of tasty tots.

Through Sampson County Cooperative Extension, Lee has visited many churches and high schools for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Officials are now reaching out to elementary schools, with Union being the first for the youth component. For several weeks, Lee will visit the school to spread messages of being active and eating balanced meals consisting of fruits, grains,vegetables, protein, and dairy.

Lee said it’s an honor to work with younger students because they are dear to her heart. Through the EFNEP, Lee has worked with church members for the “Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More,” and the “Table for Two” program for teenage parents

“It’s very different because you have a group of children who are depending on you for everything because they don’t know that much,” she said about working with third-grade elementary students.

Principal Dondi Hobbs expressed how the EFNEP program is important for children to learn about healthy alternatives and limiting their intake of sugary snacks.

“I think it’s important that the children are learning more about nutrition and some of the healthier choices that they can make in their diet,” Hobbs said. “I grateful that we were given the opportunity to be able to bring this to our third-graders this year,” Hobbs said.

April Jordan, director of school nutrition for Sampson County Schools, said it was a good way for students to have new experiences when it comes to nutrition. Rep. Larry M. Bell shared the same sentiments about the program.

“I think it’s a very good class and it caries across so many disciplines,” Bell said. “You have language arts, physical education and health. It’s very good.”

Stephanie McDonald-Murray, EFNEP district supervisor, said they’re excited to come inside the schools and appreciated the support from Superintendent Dr. Bracy, teachers, and Hobbs.

“Everybody has been receptive in embracing our program and we want to thank them for such a great partnership,” McDonald-Murray said about help from the staff for food preparation. “We don’t have that in a lot of counties. Usually our staff are the ones that do it. But she gives them the recipes to make sure it goes along with the lessons, which reinforces what she teaches.”

After the sessions, Lee wants the students share the information with their families.

“If the children get it, they’re going to take it to mom and dad and they’re going to start eating healthy too,” she said about fixing nutritious meals at home.

She emphasized the importance of children starting an early age so good habits will continue at the middle and high school levels.

“I’m really enjoying this and I hope that some more schools would want to join in all over Sampson County,” Lee said.

Lee plans to visit all of the elementary schools in Sampson County. She would also like to assistance from other agencies in the area. Some of the help may include providing awards such as gift cards when the students complete the program.

“If there are agencies that like what we’re doing for the children here in Sampson County, I would appreciate it if they would contact me,” Lee said.

Established in 1969, EFNEP officials worked to influence nutrition and physical activity behaviors of low-income families. The organization will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019 and programs.

For more information about the program, contact Lee at 910-592-7161 or by email at [email protected]

Through the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, students learn how to make healthy meals with simple ingredients.

Students exercise inside the cafeteria at Union Elementary School.

Lethia Lee, an educator for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, helps students make meal plans.

Lethia Lee shows students a can of chickpeas, which were used in a snack they sampled.

Extension, nutrition program expands in Sampson

Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

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