Another agent to leave

Food stamp nutrition expert will be gone by February

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By the end of January, Moffat County no longer will have a food stamp nutrition extension agent.

Colorado State University has cut the position at the Moffat County Cooperative extension office, because the federal government no longer is reimbursing the university for the position, said Elisa Shackelton, acting extension office director.

Food Stamp Nutrition Agent Beth DuBois assisted about 25 Moffat County families a month in nutritional planning, Shackelton estimated.

Moffat County Social Services regularly referred food-stamp recipients to DuBois for educational services, said Laura Willems, Social Services self sufficiency manager.

"Everyone I spoke to that used that program had an excellent experience," Willems said.

Social Services has pamphlets that advise clients on nutritional information, but the office offers no classes about nutrition, Willems said.

Along with Social Services clients, DuBois assisted clients of Women, Infants and Children, Head Start, Horizons Specialized Services, and the Independent Living Center, and she hosted regular programs at Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County School District.

The cut leaves Shackelton, a family consumer sciences expert, as the extension office's lone agent.

The Moffat County commissioners cut the agriculture/horticulture agent in 2003 to balance the county budget. The extension office's director and 4-H coordinator Nate Balstad resigned late last year to pursue other opportunities.

CSU fully funded DuBois' position. CSU made cuts across the state, including some administrative specialists in the food stamp nutrition program, Shackelton said.

Shackelton has a background in nutrition, and she planned to continue providing information and outreach services as she has the time to do so.

She hopes CSU replaces the extension's 4-H coordinator between April and May, an addition that would give her more time to deal with nutrition.

In light of the childhood obesity crisis across the nation, Shackelton hoped the office could obtain grants to continue nutrition programs. But those grants wouldn't enable the office to rehire or replace DuBois, she said.

Extension offices across Colorado have suffered as the Legislature cuts higher education while weathering the state's financial crisis.

Some offices, such as the Routt County extension, have begun charging fees for programs and services.

However, Shackelton stressed that most of the programs she hosts are funded through grants, enabling the office to charge low fees or no fees.

"Here and there, we'll charge a couple bucks," she said.

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