March 6, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Nearly 30 percent of people eligible for food stamps are not participating in the food assistance program. Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension professionals in family and consumer science want to increase the awareness of this federal program. More importantly, they want to help food stamp recipients and those eligible for food stamps get the most from their food dollar with the “Kentucky Gets Foodwise” program.

Extension agents for family and consumer sciences in participating counties spend three to 10 percent of their time dedicated to the program. They are teaching food stamp recipients and those eligible for food stamps how to create healthy meals on a strict budget.

“We want to provide educational programs that increase awareness among current and future food stamp recipients,” said Janet Kurzynske, University of Kentucky food stamp nutrition education plan project director. “We want them to be able to make healthy food choices, on a limited budget, that are consistent with the most recent advice reflected by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid.”

Kurzynske said the Foodwise program has several primary objectives regarding food stamp households such as ensuring they have enough to eat without resorting to emergency food assistance; improving safe food handling, preparation and food storage; enhancing practices related to thrifty shopping for preparation of nutritious food; and motivating participants to adopt eating and lifestyle behaviors consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid.

“Each year we determine what the program thrusts will be through needs assessments,” she said. “The programs are designed to be fun and skill-based. Each program contains background material, a lesson guide with a variety of fun, skill-based activities, presentation materials like overheads and teaching supplies, recipe booklets for participants, and other nutrition education reinforcement items for participants and four-color handouts. Also, efforts are enhanced by statewide prime-time radio spots.”

Some of the program classes teach the basics of slow cooker meals, fast breakfasts, dinner on $5, fun summer foods, smart shopping, family meals, nutrition basics, and how food color can be a key to nutrition.

“Over the years, FCS agents in 114 counties have participated in this program,” Kurzynske said. “We have collaborated with schools, Headstart, Workforce training programs, Even Start, social services offices, housing authorities and family resource/youth service centers across the Commonwealth.”

She said the “Kentucky Gets Foodwise” program is sensitive to the issue that most consumers don’t want to be told what to eat. The program is developed in a way that participants can make their own food choices and still craft healthy, economical meals.

“Kentucky Gets Foodwise” was begun in 1997 as a joint effort by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, the UK Cooperative Extension Service and Kentucky’s Cabinet for Families and Children. To find out more about the program, contact the Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in your county.


Janet Kurzynske  859-255-8640