Summit Academy Community School Cincinnati second-grade students Bailey Brewer, Christopher Keys and Jeremy Clarke get ready to enjoy healthy snacks.

Did you say sunflower seed butter, oats and honey rolled into delightful energy bites?  Chicken-and-vegetable fried rice? Skillet lasagna? Banana nice cream? Yes, please. That’s the sentiment of a dozen or so Summit Academy Community School – Cincinnati families that signed up for nutrition classes, during which they’ll make recipes like these.

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) offered through The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is coming to the school January 23 through March 19 to present nine weekly lessons designed to teach families with children about USDA nutrition and physical activity recommendations. Families will take part in cooking lessons, learn how to stretch grocery bill dollars, practice food safety, and receive tips and take-homes related to meal preparation. Think: cutting boards, meat thermometers and measuring cups.

“Little changes in what you eat and how you prepare it can add up to positive health effects,” says Amy Hollar, RDN, program specialist for EFNEP in Hamilton County. She points out that 70 percent of deaths from chronic diseases have dietary and physical activity components. In other words, poor eating and exercise habits can negatively impact health.

Program participants will learn how to prepare recipes that are inexpensive to make, typically include less than 15 ingredients, do not require fancy kitchen equipment, and provide delicious flavor without lots of fat, salt and sugar.

Lucy Acevedo-Lopez and Selina Bower, both OSU EFNEP teachers, promoted nutrition classes at Summit Academy Community School Cincinnati’s Winter Wonderland last December.

“I want to bring the idea of healthy eating to our families. These classes teach parents how make meals from scratch and be smart and proactive,” says Khadine Kelly, LSW, community resource coordinator for Summit Academy Community School in Cincinnati, underscoring that food can affect children’s mood, among other factors.

The family workshops follow weekly programs on healthy eating that were presented by EFNEP to the school’s kindergarteners through fifth-graders last fall.

“Good nutrition and physical activity are important for children. They need nutrients to support their growing bodies and brains. They help kids do better in school and set the stage for life, so they are less likely to develop chronic illnesses later on,” Hollar says.

What’s more, through the classes, youngsters and their families learn that good food and good health bring good times.

“Kids get excited about eating healthy and have a lot of fun in the classes,” Hollar says. For the adults, she adds, the outcomes are equally as satisfying. “One of my favorite parts of the classes is that they build community among neighbors. They form connections. People start things like community gardens and walking groups.”

Launched in 1969, EFNEP is the longest-standing federally funded nutrition program in the country. Offered to limited-resource families with children, the workshops are free. Contact Amy Hollar at 513-946-8987 for details.