Better Living for Texans
Improving Lives Through Eating Well
By: Jon Perrott
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is committed to helping people improve their lives through educational outreach. The Better Living for Texans program (BLT) is one of AgriLife Extension’s efforts to build communities and impact generations in a positive way through teaching on the topics of making healthy food choices within a limited budget, practicing food safety, and choosing active lifestyles consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.
Located in over 220 Texas counties, Better Living for Texans is a state-wide nutrition education program that is the result of a cooperative endeavor between the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the State of Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission (HHS), and AgriLife Extension that began in 1995. As such, Better Living for Texans plays a critical role in AgriLife Extension’s efforts to improve the standard of living of needy Texas residents.
The population of Texas is among the fastest growing in the nation. Over 17% of Texas households have incomes that are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL). An estimated one out of seven Texans receives SNAP benefits, formerly known as The Food Stamp Program. Data from the 2011 Current Population Survey indicate that more than 18% of Texas households faced challenges in keeping food on the table at least once within a 12-month period (classified as food insecurity). The percentage of Texas households that experience food insecurity continues to be higher than the national average of about 15%.
Research also suggests that the diets of low-income households, including those receiving SNAP benefits and those with children, often lack variety and are typically inadequate in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, dairy products, and lean meat. Additionally the diets of low-income households tend to be low in fiber, vitamins A and E, folic acid, zinc, calcium, and iron and higher in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium than is currently recommended
These issues, coupled with the reality that a lack of proper nutrition or poor diet quality has been linked to four of the ten leading causes of death in the United States, exemplify the importance of Better Living for Texans. BLT addresses these critical issues through a variety of educational programs that are delivered through teaching methods that reflect audience needs. Teaching methods include: lesson series, single education events, one-to-one consultations, demonstrations, and tours.
Through the presence of BLT throughout the state, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reaches all areas of Texas, both rural and urban, and increases the likelihood of meeting the nutrition education needs of under-served Texans.
Survey data reveals that the majority of BLT participants have their first exposure to AgriLife Extension through BLT. With an average of over one million contacts per year, BLT programs have resulted in positive behavior changes among participants in each of the four program goals (preparing nutritious meals, food safety, stretching food dollars, and physical exercise) as well as greater exposure to what Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has to offer.
Learn more: agrilife.org/blt
14 in ’14 is a monthly series celebrating the centennial anniversary of the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, the legislation which created the national cooperative extension system. Each month we will feature people, programs, history, and ideas highlighting some of the unique accomplishments of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
14 in ’14 is a joint effort between Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Organizational Development Unit and graduate students from the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at Texas A&M University, under the direction of Scott Cummings, Jeff Ripley, and Kevin Andrews.