Frugal gourmet |

Frugal gourmet

Eating on $5 a Day program a nutritional, financial benefit, organizers say

Joshua Roberts

— Myth No. 1: cheap food is bad food. Myth No. 2: those on a limited income have no choice but to eat unhealthy.

If you believe either of these statements, Elisa Shackelton would like to have a word, or more accurately, your participation in a six-week program, to convince you otherwise.

Dollars to doughnuts, the Eating Well on $5 a Day program can debunk any falsehoods between eating right and spending little, said Shackelton, director of the sponsoring agency, the Colorado State University/Moffat County Extension Office.

“The really nice benefit,” Shackelton said, “is that a lot of people think because they have a limited food budget, they’re doomed to eat unhealthy. : That’s not true..”

The program, implemented by the Moffat County Extension Office in 2004, has seen limited participation in its brief history. However, Shackelton said the program can be beneficial to a wide-range of people – including those on a fixed income to teens heading off to college.

Participants are provided with basic nutrition education plus six visits to a local supermarket, where students can apply their newfound budgeting skills and nutrition knowledge.

“The classroom is the grocery story,” Shackelton said. “And we’re using actual products as our laboratory.”

The program draws its inspiration from the fact that many people who receive federal assistance get only about $5 per day for food, Shackelton said. It is also built around the belief that many with limited money for food might not have the housing to accommodate cooking, thus food purchases are made in keeping with little preparation, she said.

Shackelton listed some minor food shopping recommendations like buying in small and individual portions, and for vegetables and produce, buying what’s on sale and in season.

A program evaluation has shown that residents who participate have improved their ability to select nutritious, affordable foods that meet daily requirements and represent all food groups, according to data.

“We’re trying to teach people to get the most nutrition for their dollar,” Shackelton said. “We’re trying to change a mindset and help people avoid the empty calories they’re buying.”

The Extension Office offers the program to clubs, groups or organizations. Individuals may also participate. Anyone interested should call Shackelton at 824-9180.

She advises that students will be in store for an interesting, practical program.

“It’s life changing,” Shackelton said, “and it’s ready to go and is tried and true.”

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