Focus on choosing, preparing healthy foods for SNAP-Ed educator Quillo

By Jennie Zeitler, Correspondent

Elizabeth Quillo started in April as the new nutrition educator for the University of Minnesota Extension Service, working in both Morrison and Todd counties. She is working with multiple local agencies to teach classes in various aspects of nutrition and cooking, targeted to low-income residents.

The education format was restructured to eliminate demonstrations and implementing hands-on classes.

“The classes work best with at least eight people, running for six sessions,” Quillo said.

Quillo has been teaching gardening and nutrition classes in Long Prairie throughout the summer.

“We talked about eating habits, budgeting for food and gardening,” she said.

One project for the class was “The Great Garden Detective Adventure.” A 40-foot by 40-foot garden plot and half of another plot in the Health Community Gardens near First Baptist Church in Long Prairie were donated for the classes to use.

“We partnered with other agencies for the gardening,” Quillo explained. “Then we used the garden for the nutrition classes.”

The class focus for July was on food budgeting to stretch food dollars, reading labels and planning meals.

Quillo has met with the “Eat” group of the Live Better Live Longer (LBLL) initiative in Morrison County.

“We will be setting up an adult cooking class,” said Quillo.

Sheila Funk, community health educator and leader of the Eat group, is working with Quillo on the details of a fall class.

“We offered classes last year at the high school and would like to expand to the broader community,” Funk said. “We will be incorporating some of the services Elizabeth can provide. She has more of the nutrition education piece; not just how to prepare food but choosing the right food for a healthy diet. We want to do a grocery store tour.”

Quillo also works with area students, in schools where more than 50 percent of the students are SNAP (formerly food stamps)-eligible.

“We look at the third through fifth-graders,” she said. “We work with them on cooking skills.”

Quillo encourages the Farm to School program which supplies local produce in large quantities to schools.

“There is now a fresh fruit and vegetable bar at Long Prairie Grey Eagle High School,” Quillo said.

Other area programs which complement Quillo’s work include Ruby’s Pantry, local food shelves, WIC and churches.

“We want to work with agencies that work with low-income families,” she said.

“This ties in with our LBLL mission to break down barriers for lower-income residents in accessing healthy foods,” Funk said. “We’ll be promoting the class through Public Health and LBLL. I think it’s awesome.”

Anyone interested in obtaining more information or in partnering with the program can call Quillo at (320) 732-4812 or Funk at (320) 360-9187 or (320) 632-0367.