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Nebraska Extension helps connect Nebraskans with the resources, research and innovation of the University of Nebraska. Nebraska Extension is dedicated to helping Nebraskans live their best, healthiest lives by fostering environments, policies and systems that enable health. The Nutrition Education Program (NEP) is one way Nebraska Extension fosters health by using evidence-based, comprehensive approaches to engage low-income families to make healthier food and physical activity choices on a limited budget.

NEP presents hands-on, interactive educational programs in over 400 community partner sites each year, reaching thousands of individuals and families ranging from early childhood to older adults. NEP has a wide variety of evidence-based approaches to foster improved health and wellness practices for community members, from soccer clubs that emphasize sports nutrition and physical activity to classes that address hypertension and other chronic diseases in addition to general nutrition for healthy living.

A major emphasis in 2023 and 2024 has been collaborating with New American audiences to identify and address their nutrition and health needs. Through tireless efforts by team member, Zahraa Rida, NEP in Lincoln has impacted over 600 people in New American families with nutrition and healthy living education. NEP is also addressing chronic disease concerns with New American populations by incorporating hypertension-specific classes and equipping individuals with blood pressure monitors and education. Participants are encouraged to track blood pressure over time and use the tracking forms to enhance patient-physician communication and care. Additionally, these relationships with New Americans and partnership organizations have enabled a new project Extension is leading with support from the National Association of City and County Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focuses on developing culturally responsive nutrition education materials for infants and toddlers for Middle Eastern cultures and languages. The project emphasizes a community-driven approach, so it includes collaborating with and providing monetary support to eight Middle Eastern families and six cultural liaisons to develop the educational resources.

NEP also partners on efforts to enhance systems and structures to increase nutrition and health within the Lincoln community, including:

  • Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Childcare Centers to help enhance nutrition and physical activity policies and practices in centers.
  • Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB)  for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to increase their fruit and vegetable intake, DUFB doubles the amount of money a SNAP recipient can spend on fresh fruits and vegetables while increasing local produce sales. DUFB provides over $100,000 in fresh produce to SNAP participants each year
  • Growing Together Nebraska Donation Garden (GTN) a donation garden project funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education that increases food security and promotes healthy food access for families and individuals who are nutrition insecure. An average of 1,500 pounds of produce are grown and gleaned in the four GTN gardens annually increasing healthy food access for over 400 families.
  • Health Equity: Nebraska Extension is fostering a ‘culture of health’ by hosting Lincoln’s Health Equity Coalition with youth and adult members and by training youth and adult volunteers to address social determinants of health via a robust, 40-hour Community Health & Wellbeing Advocacy training program.

For more information and to learn how to partner, contact Emily Gratopp.