Virginia Cooperative Extension recently graduated 24 new volunteers from the Roanoke Valley and New River Valley from its Master Food Volunteer Program. These enthusiastic volunteers will help educate citizens about the importance of good nutrition.
The “master volunteer” concept has been successfully used for many years by the Virginia Master Gardener program. By using a similar approach – training volunteers who then pass along the education to the public – the Master Food Volunteer program teaches citizens about nutrition and healthy eating.
Volunteers pay a small fee to undergo 30 hours of training over the course of four weeks where they learn about basic nutrition, meal planning, cooking techniques, food safety, and how to work with diverse audiences. At the completion of the training, the volunteers pledge to give back at least 30 hours of service to their communities by teaching others.
After successful completion of the training program, volunteers are able to select the venues at which they will share their newfound expertise. “Our volunteers can choose from a variety opportunities to assist with nutrition and food education. Some may go into the school system and teach youth about eating healthy. Others may do demonstrations of safe preparation and storage of local foods at farmer’s markets around the region. Or, they can choose to do health fairs, in which case they would maintain an educational exhibit with nutritional information set up to help the public. The opportunities are endless,” says Melissa Chase, state coordinator, VCE Master Food Volunteer Program.