Hero Image

In-home education helps families face the future with hope

The Issue

Over 156,000 of Alameda County residents live at or below poverty level and are at risk for food insecurity and chronic diseases associated with poor nutrition and lifestyle choices. UCCE’s in-home nutrition education started in 1999 in three Oakland Housing Authority projects. Stairways were dark, the facilities unkempt, there was little apparent interest in learning about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Many residents did not know their neighbors and did not open the door to outreach staff with nutrition information. Local human services agencies had conducted research and demonstration projects, but rarely were there long enough to gain the confidence and respect of the community and see change. UCCE’s assessments found that those in greatest need failed to participate in group classes. These families needed more personalized education to gain nutrition and survival skills.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE in Alameda County offers ongoing in-home nutrition education targeting three low-income housing units and surrounding underserved areas. It promotes nutrition and life skills, nurturing healthy attitudes and practices that can be passed to future generations. Educators stress prevention of obesity - a risk factor associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and kidney disease and more. The goal is to increase the residents' life skills, fruit and vegetable intake, food safety, active lifestyles, and supplemental food program participation. UCCE was a member of the Oakland Housing Authority's Project Hope revitalization advisory committee and was the first to help a low-income housing project start gardens combining flowers with edible plants. A recycling company provided green clippings and a farmer provided straw for the soil; health department funds paid for rototilling; nurseries as far away as Sonoma donated plants, seeds, fruit trees and shrubbery. Two specialists from UC Berkeley taught 40 parents and children to plant and care for at least 26 plots. The in-home education triggered the interest of local agencies and led to a 15-member HUD-funded collaborative serving families displaced by demolition of the complex with the gardens.

The Payoff

UCCE Alameda brings hope to hard-to-reach families

UCCE submitted grant applications and received over $1 million funding from the Haas Junior Fund foundation, Highland Hospital, Alameda County Health Department, California Nutrition Network, and over $400,000 in-kind support from the Alameda County Social Services Agency. With this fund support continuous nutrition education was offered over a 14-year period to families in three Oakland housing projects. UCCE's outreach promoting a better quality of life changed how many view the value of healthy lifestyles. More than 4,500 residents graduated with six hours of education. More than 2,000 Food Behavior Checklist Evaluations conducted one year later show positive changes in the following areas: money management - 79 percent; nutrition - 89 percent; food safety - 37 percent. Forty-eight percent of participants increased fruit and 41 percent increased vegetable variety, 52 percent reduced fat and 51 percent reduced salt, 15 percent reduced soda, and 33 percent increased activity. In addition, non-traditional sites in the area, such as liquor stores and gas stations, now offer fresh fruits.


Supporting Unit: Alameda County

Mary L. Blackburn, NFCS Advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension
(510) 639-1274 or mlblackburn@ucanr.edu