Branching Out: CNP Explores New Ways to Offer Programming

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That is how the saying goes and as COVID-19 continues to run its course, this is becoming a mantra for the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP).

“When COVID-19 hit in March, CNP was able to pivot and change our programming,” said Mindy Meuli, director of CNP. “We are branching out and exploring new ways of delivering nutrition and physical activity education while looking for opportunities to partner with community organizations.”

Part of that branching out includes offering online classes to clients of partner agencies. Classes with partner organizations were put on hold in spring, but this summer, Laramie County CNP educator Kelsi Goldfarb started thinking through how to make classes possible for client groups while maintaining social distancing.

In July, leadership at Overture, an agency that provides services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, asked CNP about the possibility of classes.

“The partnership with Overture began by them reaching out after they heard about the program through Goodwill, which I worked with last spring,” said Goldfarb. “This was the first online group class that I have taught.”

This was also the start of online group classes for CNP and through some coordination with Overture, it ended up being just what Overture clients wanted.  

 “Zoom worked really well with the participants,” said Kell Poniatowski, a coordinator at Overture. “They could hear the program very clearly and participate really well.”

Once a week, Goldfarb taught the nutrition portion of the lesson via Zoom and coordinators at Overture helped participants make that week’s CNP recipe.

“We had the clients work in different groups prepping the meal,” said Poniatowski.  “Each of them had a turn stirring ingredients, measuring, reading the recipe, or serving the snack to everyone. These recipes were easy to follow and great for the clients to make as a group.”

Cooking the CNP recipes each week gave some of the participants the tools they needed to meet their goals, such as making some healthy changes to their diets.

“Cent$ible Nutrition has given me great recipes to add more vegetables into my meals each day,” said one participant.  “I love how quick and easy these recipes are.”

For other participants, some of the activities Goldfarb led over Zoom ended up changing the choices they make every day.

“Learning about the Think Your Drink was so eye opening with the amount of sugar I was consuming over a year span,” a participant said. “I am working towards cutting soda out but, I have dropped from 6 to 3 sodas a week and have a lot more energy for my physical activity that we also have increased to 45 minutes per day.”

Poniatowski echoes this, noting that, “Being able to see the number of calories and sugar in different items that we are using on a day-to-day basis has been a big take-away. Each of the clients are now so much more aware of reading the labels when shopping.”

While the online format is a little different experience than CNP’s in-person classes, participants still learned the value of reading Nutrition Fact labels, living an active lifestyle, practicing food safety, and applying cooking skills to prepare their own meals.

Goldfarb notes that even online, the class was able to have those interactions and conversations that make CNP unique. Poniatowski indicates that the online format also helped meet participant needs.

“This format really allowed those that needed to move about the room during the class time be able to and not disrupt others and it also allowed the clients to do things together such as the exercise videos and use the materials,” said Poniatowski, who says she would recommend the online format to other agencies.

Goldfarb already has several more online classes set up with partner agencies and CNP educators around the state are excited for the opportunities possible with online classes.  

* The Cent$ible Nutrition Program is funded by USDA SNAP-Ed and EFNEP. SNAP-Ed assists individuals and families who receive, or are eligible to receive, benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). EFNEP assists families and youth with limited resources  in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behaviors necessary for nutritionally sound diets and contributes to their personal development and the improvement of total family diet and nutritional welfare. Visit our income-qualification page to learn more. 

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. This material was funded by USDA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program-EFNEP. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

The University of Wyoming is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

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