National Nutrition Month spotlights OSU Extension programs

Mar. 13—County commissioners proclaimed March as National Nutrition Month in Pittsburg County, spotlighting programs offered through the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.

A variety of services are offered through the OSU Extension Service, with programs offered to students through public schools as well as to individuals, families and groups that qualify.

Area Coordinator for the OSU Extension Service Community Nutritional Education Program Linda Lowber spoke to the commissioners about CNEP activities and later spoke with the News-Capital regarding available programs.

"We work out of the OSU office," Lowber said, referring to the OSU Cooperative Extension Service Office at 707 W. Electric Ave. in McAlester.

"We have two nutrition assistants in Pittsburg County who teach nutrition to children and families," she said. Nutrition Education Assistants Breeze Henkel and Paula Baker serve as the NEAs in Pittsburg County.

Children are taught through programs at public schools in the county.

Qualifying adults are taught in a variety of settings, including in the home or group settings.

To qualify for the program, adults must be getting some type of food assistance, such as the Supplemental Assistance Food Program, known as SNAP, or some other kind of food assistance.

Some families are taught through materials their children share with them regarding healthy eating and other activities.

"Children are encouraged to share information with the families and make it a family affair," Lowber said. That extends the program's reach.

"In schools, over 50 percent of the students are on government programs," said Lowber.

In addition to healthy eating habits, physical activity is encouraged.

"We encourage movement," Lowber said. "So many kids don't move as much as they used to," she said, with more time spent before electronic screens.

CNEP also encourages people to shop at Farmers Markets along with grocery stores. Doing so not only provides more healthy and usually locally-grown foods, it also helps farmers in the area, Lowber noted.

Anyone needing information or who wants to determine eligibility for the program can phone the OSU Extension Center in McAlester at 918-423-4120, Lowber said. The OSU Extension Center office in McAlester can also be contacted online at

The proclamation declaring March as National Nutrition Month in Pittsburg County notes the type, quality and amount of food individuals consume daily plays a vital role in their overall health and physical fitness. As a result, there's a need for continuing nutrition education and a wide-scale effort to enhance healthy eating practices.

Also, the proclamation notes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as carried out by CNEP and the Family and Consumer Science, Education and Agriculture Education of the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Pittsburg County helps people eat with the environment in mind by establishing and maintaining local gardens and teaching essential gardening skills.

CNEP and Family Consumer Science programs of Pittsburg County encourages participants to shop at farmers' markets to support healthful and sustainable eating habits, the proclamation continues.

The CNEP program is available for families and youth with research-based curriculum and hands-on learning experience at no cost to help them learn nutrition information included stretching food dollars, healthy eating, food safety and exercise tips.

"Healthy habits lead to better academic success," the proclamation notes. "This year's theme, Fuel for the Future, emphasizes eating with sustainability in mind."

OSU Extension Service staff joining Lowber for the proclamation signing during the commissioners' Monday meeting at the Pittsburg County Courthouse included Henkel, County Extension Director David Cantrell and Family and Consumer Science Educator Rachel Lockhart.

County Commissioner Chairman/District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers signed the proclamation declaring March as National Nutrition Month in Pittsburg County, along with District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith and District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman.