While March was National Nutrition Month, Heather Peracchio ’05 (CAHNR), ’08 MS (CAHNR) educates Connecticut families about healthy food every day. A registered dietitian nutritionist, Peracchio is an educator with UConn Extension and meets regularly with families in Fairfield County as part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).
One of Peracchio’s recent sessions gained attention from the Biden Administration with a visit from Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, Sara Bleich, PhD.
“We were thrilled that Dr. Bleich chose to join our event out of hundreds across the region,” says Peracchio. “Her insights about the national priorities related to equity and nutrition added to the practical education we share with parents and young children through SNAP-Ed.”
Bleich joined a session held on March 28, 2022 that Peracchio co-hosts with the Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut, a non-profit that “provides social services and programs directly and through partnerships to vulnerable and low-income individuals, families and communities in Western Connecticut to help them achieve self-sufficiency and to improve their lives.”
Bleich joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), after serving as the Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary at USDA (2021). She is a policy expert and researcher who specializes in diet-related diseases, food insecurity and racial inequality. She explained to the Connecticut families participating in the session how interconnected culture and equity are with nutrition security, a fact that became even more apparent during the pandemic.
“Diet-related diseases are high, and they disproportionally affect historically disadvantaged populations. At the same time, two-thirds of Covid hospitalizations were driven by diet-related disease,” says Bleich. “Why is the USDA taking this moment to prioritize nutrition security? The answer really lies with the pandemic and the emphasis on racial equity in this White House.”
As SNAP-Ed turns 30 this year, Bleich underscores the continued importance of the program and the support it provides families throughout the nation.
“From President Biden on down, there is a focus on making sure all Americans have consistent and equitable access [to nutritious food]. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you make. But we at USDA can’t do this alone. We’re looking to partners like you.”
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) are federally funded programs supported by UConn Extension and the Department of Nutritional Sciences within the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.
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