West Virginia State University Extension Service providing healthy recipes for kids through Virtual Nutrition Program

INSTITUTE, WV (WOAY) – While cooking demonstration videos are becoming increasingly popular in the digital arena, West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Associate Kateira Hogan never expected to be among the people creating such content. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, Hogan has taught more than 800 kids about healthy eating and cooking with virtual cooking demonstrations and education.

Through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), a USDA initiative that provides nutrition education to youths and adults, Hogan is teaching safe food handling and preparation, healthy eating, and nutritious recipes to kids in middle schools throughout Kanawha County.

“At the middle school age, kids really begin to develop as individuals and are open to new ideas and learning new skills,” she said. “I have found that when these new cooking techniques are learned, the students want to share them with family and friends, which increases the awareness of this knowledge across age ranges.”

The goal, Hogan says, is to teach the kids to be able to prepare an easy, healthy and nutritious meal and, by sharing that knowledge with parents, caregivers, and siblings, the entire family will benefit.

“Ultimately, we want the kids to have the skills to create a healthy meal for themselves at home and to share those skills with others in the household,” she said.

Through EFNEP, students learn kitchen basics like how to use measuring spoons, measuring cups and other food preparation tools. The curriculum covers the main food groups and proper portions to make a healthy meal.

While EFNEP is typically conducted as a supplemental in-class or after-school program, Hogan has had to shift the program into Kanawha County Schools’ Schoology program in the wake of the pandemic.

“We have changed our curriculum around so we are able to do everything online,” Hogan said. “The use of leaning tools such as Schoology have made the transition to virtual teaching effective and engaging for the students and even parents.”

Hogan also noted the positive impact that the virtual version of EFNEP is having on real-time family involvement.

“A lot of the parents have been on the sessions as we’ve done activities,” she said. “They watch and participate along with the kids, which is great.”

As the calendar year draws to a close, Hogan is anxious to review student and teacher feedback and plan for 2021.

“We really switched things around this period, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the students share,” she said. “They’ve really sat through each lesson, listened and asked great questions, so I’m excited to see what they do next.”

EFNEP is a federal community outreach program that currently operates through the 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities in every state, the District of Columbia and the six U.S. territories. WVSU Extension Service also provides EFNEP education to adults in a multi-county region of central and southern West Virginia.