Migrant and seasonal farm labor families receive valuable nutrition education

Migrant and seasonal farm labor workers are a vital component of the United States agricultural industry and despite their important contributions, they are known to be a marginalized population who live in poverty, have limited access to health care services, are often malnourished, and have poor health indicators, said Chelsey Slattery, Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor for the Cooperative Extension of Butte County.

Over the summer, the University of California Cooperative Extension held two nutrition programs, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) and the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, to deliver a dual series-based presentation of curricula over an 8-week period.

“This collaborative lesson approach took place in the heat of the summer at a 100-unit Migrant Farm Housing facility in Williams,” said Slattery. “The participants were families, specifically mothers and their children, living at the Migrant Farm Housing.”

According to Slattery, EFNEP staff provided lessons using the Eat Smart, Being Active curriculum, while the UC CalFresh staff facilitated the youth lessons using the Happy Healthy Me curriculum.

“The two programs collaborated to make it their goal to provide an opportunity for both the parent and the child to be introduced to the same terminology and concepts so that they could have a common language at home,” said Slattery.

With less than ideal circumstances, the hottest time of the day, limited access to facilities, and participants had already spent their day working out in the fields prior to attending these lessons in a facility without air conditioning, staff from the two programs wondered how successful their 8-week course would be, but against all odds, the program flourished and participants excelled.

“After facilitating lessons over an 8-week period, 82 percent of the adult participants graduated from EFNEP,” she said. “Of those graduates, 78 percent reported eating more fruits, 22 percent reported eating more vegetables, and 44 percent reported increases in their physical activity levels.”

“Since the class started, I compare prices and I have bought healthier food like fruits and vegetables, eat less fast food, and prepare foods with less salt, sugar, and oils,” said Luz Nalley Can Guiterrez, an EFNEP participant.

Staff from the two nutrition programs also reported that with every week that went by, participants provided updates about the incremental changes that they were making as a result of participating in these nutrition lessons, Slattery said.

“Changes included increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, decreasing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, and checking the nutrition facts labels on prepackaged foods,” she said.

Both UC CalFresh and EFNEP offer nutrition education to residents in Colusa County at no cost. For more information about UC CalFresh or EFNEP, contact Chelsey L. Slattery, cslattery@ucanr.edu

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