Healthy Conversations Worth Having

— Written By Christy Strickland and last updated by
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My Cooperative Extension Service career began in 2004 as a Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. That same year, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) turned 35! EFNEP began as a pilot program by the United States Department of Agriculture to help limited-resource individuals. Their mission was to focus on serving limited-resource families with young children, school-aged youth, and pregnant teens through a series of lessons offered by paraprofessionals and volunteers from the communities. North Carolina was one of the initial states to implement this pilot program. Robeson County was one of the first counties in the state to be selected to participate in the program. So when EFNEP turned 35, it was indeed a celebration in Robeson County. I remember the event very well! There were lots of people singing happy birthday and eating cake and ice cream.

Now, fast forward almost 15 years, and guess what? EFNEP will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year! Currently, EFNEP serves 45 counties in North Carolina; Robeson County continues to be one of those counties and we’re still going strong. Ashley McRae, Adult EFNEP Assistant, and Joanna Rogers, Youth EFNEP Assistant, provide the educational program throughout the county by helping participants make wiser food choices, learn ways to increase daily physical activity, improve and manage food resources, and practice food safety techniques.

In Robeson County, EFNEP works with over 140 families per year through the adult program and over 1,000 youth per year in the youth program. On average, that means at least 6-8 weekly contacts with a participant over a series of lessons. Of those participating, 92 percent report improved dietary intake, 75 percent now practice daily physical activity, 82 percent practice better food resource management, and 67 percent have improved food safety habits.

Turning 50 is a big deal! Think of the impact this program has had on participants in Robeson County. I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I do a lot more reflecting on the past and anticipate what is ahead. As I approach the next big decade in my life, I want to look at what I have done well and then what I still want to accomplish in my life. Those are big questions for an individual, but those are even bigger questions when an organization is evaluating their impact and how to move forward.

To help us reflect on how EFNEP can continue to make significant impacts in our county, North Carolina Cooperative Extension of Robeson County will host a “Conversations Worth Having” on Thursday, February 28, 2019, at the N.C Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center located in the O. P. Owens Agricultural Center Auditorium, 455 Caton Road, Lumberton, from 9–11:30 a.m. You may be wondering if you have something to offer to this conversation. I’m sure you do! If you have an interest in helping citizens in Robeson County improve their health, increase their physical activity, or help improve the lives of our children through healthy eating decisions, then we need you! This will be an opportunity to engage in dynamic conversations about the role of Nutrition Education in Preventive Care and how we can increase our impact collectively. The wave of the future is collaboration and collective impact. Systems change requires all of us growing together in the same direction. This event will bring those collaborations and opportunities together through guided conversation.

We hope you will consider joining us! If you have questions or if you would like to be part of this conversation, please call our office at (910) 671-3276 to let us know, so we can be prepared for you. We would love to talk with you more about the many programs offered through the Cooperative Extension Service.

For more information, contact Christy Strickland, County Extension Director, at (910) 671-3276, by email at, or visit our website.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University are collectively committed to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.