Food is the ultimate uniter, bringing us together with stories and laughter. We share this experience during the holidays, followed by the new year and resolutions such as making healthier food choices, saving money and being more physically active. As parents, we often make these resolutions but rarely put them into action because we are too busy taking care of others to find time to take care of ourselves.
The FoodWIse Nutrition Education Program, a collaborative education and outreach program between Racine County and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, offers a free series, called “Eating Smart — Being Active,” that unites parents of school-age children and offers a fun and supportive space where we discuss food and how we can put those new year goals into action. Some common questions about the program are:
Q. What will I get out of “Eating Smart Being Active”?
A. Participants will focus on MyPlate’s food groups and learn tasty kid-approved recipes that are easy, low-cost and healthy.
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Learners also discover how to plan meals, shop strategically and save money on food, including how to use EBT at area farmer markets (some have double dollar programs even during the winter.) Also covered is food safety, and how to incorporate fun physical activity into families.
Extra bonus: Those who complete the series receive free cooking tools and a cookbook to reinforce what they’ve learned together throughout the series.
Q. Is this program in-person or online, and how long is it?
A. We recognize everyone’s comfort level is different during the pandemic, so we are offering the series in various ways: in-person, live online via zoom and “blended” (alternating in-person/online meeting dates). Participants meet once a week and series lengths vary from seven to nine dates depending on the format (in-person, online, blended).
Q. Does it cost anything and who can sign-up?
A. The program is free for participants through funding by the USDA Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Grant. The grant requires participants to be parents, foster parents or guardians of children 18 and younger whose household qualifies for one of the following: WIC, free or reduced lunch, FoodShare, disability or similar benefits.
Q. I’m a childcare provider. Does this count towards hours with The Registry?
A. Yes. Childcare providers who also meet the participant criteria above (parent/guardian of children 18 and younger within their household), may take the series and earn hours towards The Registry (9 if taken online or 11 if blended). Childcare providers must complete the entire series to receive Registry education hours, at no cost.
Q. What have other learners said about participating in the program?
A. Some of the comments we received from Racine and Kenosha parents are:
- “I’ve saved four hours a week grocery shopping and $200 off my monthly grocery costs using the tips from the Plan Shop Save session.”
- “I’m borderline diabetic, and I was finally able to cut out soda with small daily changes. It was easier than I thought.”
- “I didn’t know I could use my EBT at some area farmers markets or that some have double-dollar programs even when the markets go indoors for the winter.”
Q. How do I sign up?
A. Contact Nicole Sicuro-Leipski at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 262-635-5393 to learn about they upcoming series. Representatives of schools, community agencies or other nonprofits that serves families that would like to offer the series as a parent program can contact Sicuro-Leipski for more information. It’s offered in English and Spanish.
Nicole Sicuro-Leipski is a teaching coordinator for the UW-Madison Division of Extension, FoodWIse program.