LAURINBURG — A local 4-H educator has received three statewide awards for her work in teaching the county’s children the importance of proper nutrition.
Hazel McPhatter, EFNEP Educator for Scotland County Cooperative Extension received the Over the Mark Award, the Circle of Excellence Award, and the Minnie Brown Award at the 2018 EFNEP State Conference.
“I was shocked, especially the Minnie Brown Award because that’s the highest award EFNEP offers. I was surprised that they chose me,” McPhatter said. “I just love young people. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.”
EFNEP stands for Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The program is operated in conjunction with NC State University and North Carolina A&T University. Scotland County’s EFNEP classes teach children from low-income families how to eat healthier meals and snacks and teaches parents different ways to stretch their limited funds in order to afford healthier, fresh foods.
McPhatter visits churches, schools and community centers in her efforts to teach the importance of proper nutrition and exercise to the county’s younger residents.
She knows that reaching children when they are young can help curb current obesity rates and keep them from facing obesity and it’s associated health problems as adults.
“I always start out classes with — If I had known what I know now, I probably wouldn’t be fighting obesity,” she said. “I love helping kids learn how to eat healthy and get physical activity. They learn they can eat some of the same things just in a healthier form.”
McPhatter sees the results in the regular participants of her programs. She tries the foods along with her students and finds that they often become fans of the newly introduced foods. The children often come back and say that they’ve asked their parents to begin buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
Those requests sometimes don’t earn her any new fans.
“I had one parent come back and say, ‘Ms. Hazel I don’t like you, now my son wants me to buy fruits and vegetables and those things are so expensive,” McPhatter said.
When she gets feedback like that, McPhatter does her best to teach parents how to seek out cheaper options for fresh foods.
This program and others like it are “very needed” in Scotland County, according to McPhatter.
As of 2015 the adult obesity rate for Scotland County was 35.70 percent.
McPhatter is currently running a nutrition and exercise boot camp. The day camp is in session form Monday to Thursday and includes healthy eating, fitness exercises and age appropriate workshops from other health and nutrition agencies in the county.
McPhatter’s three awards were for exceeding goals and excellence.
The Over the Mark Award recognizes EFNEP Educators who are five percent or more above their target outreach and meet or exceed program impact goals. The educators meet participants where they are and form partnerships with community other organizations.
McPhatter earned the second level of the Circle of Excellence award as an EFNEP Educator who consistently performs above target workloads and consistently meets impact goals.
“She is a master of outreach and meets the needs of her participants in nutritional education,” said Angela Galloway youth director at the cooperative extension. “She is a leader within her unit and exemplifies excellence in her work with children and families across the county.”
The Minnie Miller Brown Award is the highest honor given to an EFNEP educator. The award was established in memory of Minnie Miller Brown, the state’s first EFNEP coordinator. On her retirement, a special endowment was established within the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to provide an annual award for the outstanding program educator of the year in adult or youth outreach.
NC EFNEP collaborates with organizations through the Eat Smart and Move More initiative trying to reduce the rising rates of obesity by teaching young people and their families practical skills that aim to create behavioral changes that help them eat better and reach a healthy weight.
“In her role as an EFNEP educator, Hazel has spent nearly 20 years in elementary school classes, day cares and church youth groups teaching Scotland County kids the importance of eating healthy and daily exercise,” said Randy Wood, director for the Scotland County Cooperative Extension Service. “Her experience, tireless work ethic and positive attitude have impacted countless youth in our community”.
For information about EFNEP or McPhatter’s boot camp, contact Scotland County Extension Center at 910-277-2422.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169