Fabulous 50 & Foodie Friday: Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program

The Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) was created in 1969 to provide nutritional education.

The Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) was created in 1969 to provide nutritional education.

Fifty years ago in February 1969, the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service announced the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  According to an article in the monthly Extension News, EFNEP began with the stated objective of "improving the diets and stretching the food dollar of families who have limited resources." This nutrition program was created in each state and coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a direct response to a 1968 food consumption survey that showed a decline in the quality of diets from 1955 to 1965.

The same 1969 Extension News article stated that the program emphasized "person-to-person contact."  Extension hired people from local communities, and this new staff called "on local homemakers with limited incomes to teach them better use of foods and ways to improve the family diet."  This instruction included "training and information on how to select, store and prepare foods for maximum nutritive value; how to read and interpret labels on food; and what critical nutrition needs should be considered for children and young families, the aged and those with limited incomes."

1985 pamphlet "Is EFNEP for You?"

In addition to the training, EFNEP in North Carolina has created numerous publications to convey food and nutrition information, as well as other topics.  Typical is the 1988 "A Good Diet Includes Vitamin A" pamphlet, with its strong use of visuals to convey information.  Many publications addressed food preservation, such as the 1979 "How to Can Tomatoes and Tomato Juice."  The 1987 "Winning Food Ideas" pamphlet contained kitchen safety tips  and even had a crossword puzzle to test people's knowledge.

1987 pamphlet "Winning Food Ideas"

EFNEP training has emphasized USDA nutritional information.  This included the "four basic food groups" concept (meat, dairy, fruits-vegetables, and breads-cereals) that circulated from the 1950s until replaced in the 1990s (currently the government agency promotes the MyPlate guidelines).  The four groups were even incorporated in the EFNEP logo (seen in the top image above) of the 1985 pamphlet "Expanded Foods and Nutrition Education Program ... Nurturing Education That Is Helping Families in North Carolina." 

There was also a longstanding campaign to educate children on nutrition topics.  In the 1970s and 1980s publications and "funsheets" were created, such as "Mighty Milk" and "Super Snacks" that contained simple recipes.  During the 1970s Extension even hosted EFNEP camps for 4-H youth.

1983 pamphlet "Mighty Milk: Funsheet and Leader Guide

"Mighty Milk" and at least one other 1980s publication contained a recipe for "magic mix," which could be added  to liquid and used in soups, sauces, and  puddings.  The ingredients were

4 cups instant dry milk

1 cup flour (or 1/2 cup cornstarch)

1 cup margarine

The margarine was then cut into the other ingredients until achieving a consistency of cornmeal.

Today, the USDA still coordinates EFNEP programs throughout the United States.  NC Cooperative Extension oversees the program in North Carolina and now uses online tools to convey its message.

Special Collections has digitized a number of historical EFNEP publications, reports, and other materials that contain further information about the development of the North Carolina program.  Additional archival materials exist that have not been digitizedPlease contact us if you are interested in researching this topic.