Research-Based Nutrition = A Healthy Community
We live in an age of constant information that’s flung at us from all sorts of crazy corners. But when a solid answer is needed, the community knows it can trust K-State Research and Extension to provide it. It is an organization whose sole purpose is to serve the needs of its county citizens and enhance their lives. Without them, Extension wouldn’t exist. Like Extension, community organizations require community involvement, and in multiple ways. In turn, Extension depends on the community to help guide the types of programs it produces. Extension also depends upon the community to offer their volunteer support to help facilitate these programs. It’s a relationship that supports and benefits from each others contributions.
Extension nutrition kits expand schools' educational options
One example of the Extension/Community partnership is the nutrition kit program that helps teach students in elementary schools across the county the importance of establishing healthy habits like choosing nutritious foods and how to wash their hands. Funded by a grant from the Johnson County Extension Education Foundation (JCEEF), these kits contain current science-based, age-appropriate curriculum and activities that introduce the basics of nutrition science, food safety and life skills that empower these youngsters to believe they can start living a healthy life today. The best thing about these kits is that both curriculum function within the standards established by the different school districts. Therefore they qualify as math, reading and science activities for the various grade levels. This frees teachers from having to find extra lessons to add into their already full schedules to teach kids health and nutrition.
Budget cuts threatened funding in 2014 - 2015
For the past ten years these Extension kits have been circulating throughout the Johnson County school districts and have developed quite a reputation with the teachers. Initially, they were designed only for use by schools where the majority of students received financial assistance for their lunches. Distribution was eventually expanded to serve all schools within the county's school districts. Unfortunately, due to federal budget cuts, the Extension Nutrition Kit program was sidelined at the start of the 2014 – 2015 school year as there was neither staff nor financial support to continue the program. This did not sit well with the community.
In order to continue the program the teachers themselves were willing to provide the funds through PTOs, parents, district support, or from their own pockets. Extension volunteers stepped up to replace lost staffing. Together the community pulled together and the program re-emerged and did indeed continue throughout the 2014 – 2015 school term.
With continued support from Extension volunteers, grants provided by the JCEEF, and community involvement, these kits will continue to be a trustworthy source of education helping to teach today’s youth the meaning of true health.