USDA path to nutrition security runs through Illinois Extension Nutrition Education Programs

woman at farmers market
Dominique Cobbs, SNAP-Ed Extension educator in Cook county shared nutrition information at the Harvey Farmers.

URBANA, Ill. – Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture released its Actions on Nutrition Security report outlining four principles that will guide its path to national nutrition security. University of Illinois Extension plays a vital role in fulfilling this mission in Illinois.

Poor nutrition is a factor in illnesses that lead to more than 600,000 U.S. deaths annually. Though poor nutrition affects everyone, historically underserved audiences are hit hardest by diet-related diseases. For example, Black households experience food insecurity at a rate three times that of white households, according to USDA reports.

The strategy to achieve nutritional security for all people begins by tackling long-standing health disparities and equity of food security across the country.

“We are leveraging all our resources to ensure access to healthy foods that promote well-being in an equitable way,” a USDA spokesperson says.

The four pillars

The path to food security includes four pillars of work: meaningful support of people throughout the life span, connecting people to healthy and affordable food, working collaboratively to translate and apply nutrition science to food choices, and prioritizing equity throughout the process.

As the provider of nutrition information for SNAP recipients in Illinois, Illinois Extension is a leader in nutrition education, providing residents timely information to address their nutrition and health needs.

“By working with more than 2,000 organizations across Illinois, Extension clarifies the message behind the science to show that healthy choices can be easy choices for families, says Jennifer McCaffrey, Illinois Extension assistant dean and program leader for Extension’s statewide family and consumer sciences program. “We serve families where they need us, when they need, fulfilling our role in the path to nutritional security for all.

fruit and vegetable market sign

Nutrition information anywhere, anytime.

In Illinois, the message is simple, says McCaffrey. Eat. Move. Save.

“Families now have a variety of ways to access information on nutrition, physical activity, and shopping that allows them to buy and find healthy food, increase their activity levels, and save money on meal preparation,” McCaffrey says. The new Eat.Move.Save. Extension website is accessed online at go.illinois.edu/EatMoveSave.

All Illinois SNAP recipients will soon receive information on how to use SNAP dollars at farmers markets to buy local produce. Extension’s Find Food Illinois mapping guide on the Eat.Move.Save site identifies locations of high quality food in each local neighborhood.

Since it highlights local businesses, the guide also supports local economies by connecting growers, distributors, and consumers contributing to the circular economy in communities across Illinois.

Connecting across USDA programs 

Illinois Extension knows that communities thrive when families have access to all available resources.  Therefore, one of the main goals of SNAP-Ed is knowing what help is available so staff can connect families with local resources. Through partnerships with school meals; child and adult feeding programs; food banks; and women, infant, and children programs; SNAP-Ed supports coordination of programs to maximize the nutrition security across Illinois. 

Science based information

“As the land grant university in Illinois, we are connected to the best and brightest scientists with the latest information,” says McCaffrey. “Through our networks, we are able to translate and disseminate the latest research findings to help residents and organizations make improvements. Through these efforts, Illinois is leading the way in nutrition security and tackling the economic challenges residents face.” 

To learn more about SNAP-Ed and the work it does in the community, visit the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs website.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

SOURCE: Jennifer McCaffrey, Illinois Extension Assistant Dean and Program Leader, Family and Consumer Sciences
WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager