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Healthy living at the Extension Office

Johnson County UT/TSU Extension Office Director, and Family & Consumer Sciences 4-H Agent, Sarah Ransom is holding a jar of strawberry jam as she is promoting healthy living and healthy eating.

Submitted by Sarah Ransom
Johnson County UT/TSU Extension Director

A fundamental issue in the world of agriculture is growing and producing produce, grains, and feeding the world. But once the food is grown, the foods we eat and prepare for our families, impact their lives. At the UT/TSU Extension Office in Johnson County, every employee focuses and promotes healthy living.  Currently, the staff consists of Sarah Ransom, County Director, and Family & Consumer Sciences/4-H Agent, Danielle Pleasant, 4-H Agent, Leigh Anne Shull, 4-H Program Assistant, and Melissa Rupard, Administrative assistant. 

While these ladies have a wide variety of programming, each has experience with teaching healthy eating and living. Sarah conducts a variety of classes on health and nutrition. From a raccoon puppet in the elementary classrooms to teach essential nutrition, cooking classes, food preservation workshops (canning, freezing, and drying), displays and samples at the local Farmers Market, to even extending health to our physical activity with arthritis exercise and water aerobics classes that are open to the community. 

Ransom says, “Being able to help people make small, easy changes that will impact the rest of their lives and their families brings such joy. Sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference in health outcomes by lowering stress, reducing weight, and increasing mobility.” 

Some of the staff takes some time during their lunch breaks to walk at the park to squeeze in some extra physical activity during their daily schedule. There is a variety of health programs that happen on the 4-H level with youth in the county. During afterschool programming, students get exposed to a variety of life skills and career options. Danielle Pleasant shares that “one of the most enjoyable parts of my job is getting kids in the kitchen and cooking with them.

Kids get to discover new skills while there, but they are willing to try new foods and create healthier options. Kids that cook their own food are more willing to try new flavors and foods. They also are excited about what they’ve learned, so they recreate them later so they can share that knowledge with their families.” Some of the most popular after school activities include baking class and cooking classes. These allow students to build confidence in the kitchen, work as a group to complete recipes, and learn culinary techniques. They learn to identify raw ingredients, calculate measurements, and baking utensils.

After one such class, Carol Hieronymus, a local teacher, stated, “Our students were always excited about the cooking class. We had one student that had never eaten a salad before. After he tasted it, he liked it and decided that he would eat at home.” 

One of our 4-H moms shared, “Having the kids interested in cooking makes for quality family time. We gather in the kitchen, and everybody pitches in and talks about our day. Plus, my kids can feed themselves.” These are healthy choices that can impact future generations. Leigh Anne, our program assistant shares that “I loved working with the Farmer’s Market and handing out healthy recipes, it was my first job with Extension. Growing up, and even now, we raise our own garden and have used the information at the Extension office to improve agriculture processes.” UT/TSU Extension offers a wide variety of educational information on healthy living, growing your food, and agriculture. 

For more information or upcoming classes, follow on Facebook or call (423)-727-8161. 

See more stories from the Women Today special feature in the physical paper.