07/16/20: Niki Maness, EYFP PA of Yancey County, shares her experiences with community partner, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
When I was hired in December 2018, I was the newbie at our office – but not by much. In November, Jessica Zucchino, was hired as our county EFNEP Educator. After a short month or so, our very ambitious County Extension Director pulled Jessica in as a back up EYFP facilitator and sent us completely across the state in January to attend training. I was apprehensive about being in the car for 4+ hours with a complete stranger, but it ended up being the birth of a wonderful friendship and an even better partnership. Jessica has a love for food (growing it, shopping for it, cooking it, sharing it), health (mind and body), and is a natural with families due to her previous experience as an elementary school teacher.
I know all of us are located in rural communities, but ours seems to be one of the more remote places. There are no delivery services, and to clarify how limited our food options are, our town’s biggest source of excitement from fall 2019 to spring 2020 was the grand opening of Bojangles…but I digress. Due to our lack of healthy, diet-conscious (gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) options, we chose EFNEP recipes that families could easily recreate at home with a few bonuses. In spring of 2019 Jessica and I merged our programs and organized meal plans for twelve weeks. The meals were healthy, cost-effective, and could be customized with a variety of ingredients. Jessica started most Mondays at noon and spent hours prepping fresh fruit and veggie trays and cooking an entire meal (with leftovers) for around 20-25 people.
Prior to each of our EYFP sessions Jessica shares an EFNEP lesson while the families are eating. Each week they learn a new food storage tip, grocery store hack, or simply discover a meal that the entire family would eat that they can make at home. Jessica’s bubbly personality, passion for health and nutrition, and experience as an educator made this partnership a perfect match. With our powers combined, we have been able to promote and encourage healthy families in all aspects – from the moment they walk into the EYFP program until they complete their final session.
Jessica puts her all into anything she does, but she’s supercharged when she’s passionate about what she’s doing. Whether she’s helping EYFP, teaching EFNEP lessons at the schools, or running 4-H camps in the summer, you’ll find her with a smile on her face and an apron around her neck. I’m one of those people who would rather do dishes than cook the meal and my food pyramid consists of carbs, so I greatly appreciate everything Jessica brings to the table (literally! haha)