Starting early can make a difference.
According to 2010 census data, 23.2 percent of children in the United States live in homes with "limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods."
Of the remaining 76.8 percent of children, according to the Center for Disease Control, most do not have a diet that meets nutritional guidelines.
According to the World Bank, "The effect of undernutrition on young children (ages 0-8) can be devastating and enduring. It can impede behavioral and cognitive development, educability, and reproductive health, thereby undermining future work productivity. Whether or not children are well-nourished during their first years of life can have a profound effect on their health status, as well as their ability to learn, communicate, think analytically, socialize effectively and adapt to new environments and people."
While a struggling family may not be able to increase how much it spends providing food for its children, it can learn how to make the best use of the resources it has. A joint endeavor between Forest-Warren Human Services and Penn State Extension aims to help parents do just that.
This October, a series of Nutrition Links program classes will be offered to help families with children under 18 learn the ins and outs of childhood nutrition.
"We are working with a lot of younger families, seeing increased number of children with feeding concerns and/or medical issues and it can be challenging for families to provide tasty meals that are healthy and nutritious," Early Intervention Coordinator for Forest-Warren Human Services Tammy Rice said.
According to information provided by Nutrition Education Advisor with the extension, Carol Wilcox, the program will offer nine lessons aimed to, "make positive changes to achieve good nutrition and health, control portion sizes, practice food resource management skills, practice food safety in preparation, practice safe storage and handling of food and increase physical activity."
The lessons will include hands-on instruction.
According to Rice, "Participants will receive several incentives for attending the program."
The classes are free to the public. The Early Intervention program, in conjunction with Penn State Extension, is utilizing outreach training funds to pay for supplies.
While there is no deadline for the classes, pre-registration is required, as class size is limited to approximately 15 participants. Participants must attend all three classes to graduate.
"With additional interest, more classes could be scheduled in the future," Rice said.
Classes are scheduled from 5 until 7 p.m. on consecutive Wednesdays Oct. 3, 10 and 17 at the Roseland Building on the grounds of Warren State Hospital.
Those interested in participating can contact Wilcox, who will present the classes, at 563-9388 ext. 203 or Carol Rickerson with Early Intervention at 726-2100 ext. 8188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.