Toi Degree: How I can help families in Rowan

  • Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:51 a.m.

SALISBURY — I am the Family and Consumer Science agent in Rowan County providing educational information and demonstrations to both youth and adult audiences.

My work has included reducing food insecurity among the older adult population and helping them stretch their food dollars to buy healthier foods and free up grocery dollars for other expenses. The More in My Basket Program’s focus is on telling older adults about the benefits of enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. More in My Basket demonstrates how SNAP benefits can help buy larger amounts of healthier foods.

I conducted eight outreach sessions with 156 participants. Each session was at a nutrition site where 53.2 percent of participants received hot meals. Many had previously applied for assistance and were denied while others were receiving the bare minimum. Following the presentation, 65.5 percent said they were able to see the benefit of an extra $16, another 55.6 percent gained a greater understanding of how and where to apply for FNS/SNAP benefits and how EBT cards and benefits work. Another 25 percent said they are planning to apply for SNAP benefits. If the 25 percent of participants applied for and received benefits, the impact of MIMB would potentially be $2,175 monthly, with a total of $26,100 yearly in additional food purchasing power.

Our youth are our most precious gifts and making sure they are prepared for the future is one of Cooperative Extension’s missions. According to recent statistics, more than 14 million youth today under 18 are defined as “at risk” of not reaching a productive adulthood. I began working with the Times Two Mentoring agency (X2). The mission is to meet the needs of court-involved and at-risk youth. X2 programs are designed to reach youth through intervention and prevention including: a community-based mentoring program; juvenile restitution; community service; juvenile Teen Court; and reclaiming futures. To improve the student’s social skills we began workshops to help with etiquette and other social behaviors.

Students were encouraged to practice skills such as: table setting, making decisions and reaching consensus, meal planning and preparation as well as kitchen safety. By series’ end, students were getting along with one another better, exercising better judgment and decision-making skills. About five students were present at each session.

I expanded nutrition to non-traditional audiences providing educational programs at Rowan Helping Ministries New Beginnings Program. The hands-on educational program reached 144 participants.

I also have pertinent information on other areas relating to special diets and financial concerns. Contact me for more information via e-mail at or by phone at 704-216-8970.

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