Nutritionalist work to make local residents healthier

Friday, October 7, 2011

University of Missouri Extension nutritionists Tonya Wogoman and Jacquie Howell are working to make local residents healthier by sharing information on nutrition, fitness and food safety with local students, families and adults.

"The statistics are terrifying," said Wogoman, nutrition program associate. "The number of kids with diabetes, asthma and other health concerns is growing because of a lack of exercise and a poor diet. It is unreal how uneducated people are."

"Especially in this area," said Howell, nutrition program assistant. "We are working to get the word out to more people. Families are in such a hurry now that they don't have time to cook, but there are healthy options."

Howell, who joined the Extension office in January, works with a variety of agencies to help educate area parents who have children under the age of 5. Currently, the Purdy High School graduate, teaches nutrition classes to Woman, Infant, Child (WIC) clients at the Barry County Health Department offices in Cassville and Monett.

"I taught Head Start in Barry County for nearly 15 years," said Howell. "I liked teaching and this is an opportunity for me to help people."

Howell also works with WIC clients in Seligman and Shell Knob, and educates parents through the Parents As Teachers Program at Exeter, Head Start, library programs and Kornerstone's Teen Moms Program. She is currently organizing a Mommy and Me class for local mothers and preschool children.

Wogoman offers nutrition education at Monett Middle School, the Cassville Senior Center, Exeter Elementary School, ARC of the Ozarks and the Wheaton School District.

"I will work with all of the local elementary schools and some of the middle schools throughout the school year," said Wogoman, a Cassville High School graduate who began working for the Extension office in September of 2009.

"I have an associates degree in general education from Crowder College and additional classes in education through Crowder and Grace Harbor Washington State University," said Wogoman. "I worked as a paraprofessional at Southwest School for a year. I really like this position, because it allows me to do what I love in a different type of environment."

Although Wogoman and Howell are currently approaching area school districts and agencies with information about their programs, they hope that organizations will begin to understand the importance of nutrition education in the near future and contact them.

"We are covering things that are important," said Wogoman. "I hope that people will start to realize that it is really important for kids to get exposed to this information. This information could help make a change in the way kids think about healthy foods. They shouldn't think that unhealthy is always what tastes good."

Wogoman and Howell's programs are based around MyPlate and MyPyramid. Programs for older students and adults are offered once a week for six weeks, and programs for younger children can be held continuously.

"We teach people about the food groups and how much they should eat from each food group," said Wogoman.

"We also offer information on smart shopping, food safety and healthy lifestyles," said Howell. "We do some taste testing of healthy foods."

"I do some body image education with the teens too," said Wogoman. "During the summer, we offer a program called Kids in the Kitchen where the children get to cook. We usually offer that through summer schools and day camps."

Wogoman also offers information and assistance at the Cassville Community Food Pantry located in the Cassville United Methodist Church.

In addition to their normal nutrition education programs, the Extension office offers two special programs to area school districts.

"We offer Food Power, which gives kids an opportunity to visit different stations that offer information on nutrition," said Wogoman. "We also offer a 30-minute play for kindergarten through second grade students, which is similar to the 'Night Before Christmas.' It uses the ghosts of food to teach kids about eating healthy."

The University of Missouri Extension office located in the Barry County Courthouse in Cassville offers a variety of resources and materials designed to educate children about eating healthy and exercising. Available information includes food safety tips, healthy recipes and ideas for physical activities.

Community members interested in offering nutrition education to children or organizing a program for preschool kids are encouraged to call Wogoman or Howell at 847-3161 or email them at or

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