Our Story: Buy Eat Live Healthy

November 2015

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers free "Buy Eat Live Healthy" nutrition education programs for families in Iowa who have low income. Adults learn how to budget their food dollars, save time and money by planning meals, and make wise food choices to help themselves and their children stay healthy.

Program assistants who teach the classes follow a research-based learning model that allows them to effectively reach and educate program participants. These educators are members of the communities they support. They are trained and supervised by university and county-based staff, and they are skilled in using hands-on, interactive teaching methods.

Sara Tessmer is one of those program assistants. While teaching a nutrition class in Indianola, she said, "We talk about fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and proteins, and how we can integrate those into the meals and snacks ... how to do the food/meal plans, and to plan their grocery list based off of that."

Programs like this are valuable, Tessmer continued. "If we teach families how to save money at the grocery store, in addition to buying the healthier foods, in the long run that helps save money."

Tessmer said nutrition education programs are offered in counties throughout the state who have identified a need for nutrition, in partnership with ISU Extension and Outreach and local county offices.

"We have a unique relationship with other providers that work with low income families. ... Because this program is funded through federal grants and the USDA, and also county level funding comes into the program, we are allowed to provide this program for free to the families," she said.

"My favorite part of the program is getting to know families and learning their skills and their ways and their ideas," Tessmer said.

In 2014, ISU Extension and Outreach enrolled 1,861 adults, whose incomes were equal to or less than 185 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines, in the program. Through a series of eight nutrition lessons, participants learned skills necessary to promote healthy lifestyles such as: eating more meals at home, preparing healthy and tasty meals for their families, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, controlling portion sizes, increasing physical activity, stretching their food dollar and food safety. Partners assisting with these programs included County Extension Districts, the Iowa Department of Human Services, and numerous community organizations and agencies that promote and help sponsor group meetings.

Contact Christine Hradek for more information about Buy Eat Live Healthy nutrition education from ISU Extension and Outreach, hradek@istate.edu, 515-294-3554.