Walking the talk
Family nutrition educators from University of California CalFresh [UC CalFresh] and Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program [EFNEP], two federally funded nutrition education programs that provide free nutrition workshops to low-income families, have joined together to practice the lessons they teach to their participants in San Joaquin County, including exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
“I wanted to exercise more regularly,” UC CalFresh nutrition educator Lorena Hoyos said. “But doing it alone wasn't working, so when the idea of working out as a group came about at training, it was the perfect opportunity. Exercising with others is a great motivator, they keep you active.”
Using home-brought exercise videos like T-25, The Firm, Hip Hop Abs and others, the nutrition staff have been sweating to the beat.
“I noticed that my endurance has gone up,” EFNEP nutrition educator Houa Lee said. “I have more confidence at work and in conducting the physical activity breaks at my classes.”
Prior to the videos, the nutrition staff, along with other San Joaquin County UC Cooperative Extension employees, were doing activities like walking around the block or going to the gym together after work. Some educators even participated in weekend races or rides, such as the Color Run, Hit the Street for Hunger Run, The Electric Run, Cinderella Bike Ride and others.
“I think it's important to show participants that we are not just preaching the goals, but living them,” said Raquel Fernandez, a program representative for the UC CalFresh and EFNEP programs. “This makes them seem a lot more attainable and helps us relate better to our participants. It also helps establish trust and credibility to our lessons.”
Participants have been asking for more physical activity,” EFNEP nutrition educator Monica Radrigan said. “It's the main reason they come and they love it! And as a result, we've noticed retention has been increasing too.”
The exercise sessions have also improved team-building efforts.
“I like to be able to come into workplace where we can support each other,” Community Nutrition Action Plan facilitator Tina Her said. “Not only in a work setting, but on a personal basis as well. This helps me connect with my coworkers better.”
UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Anna Martin said after-work exercise program is a win-win situation.
“I am proud that our staff has initiated activities that not only promote their own physical health, but improves their relationship as a team," Martin said.