By Lindsey Breunig
In the acronym alphabet soup, you are bound to have a couple repeats. If I told you that the BLT program creates opportunities and changes lives, I can understand how you might have a glimmer of doubt. Now, how does a Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich have such a strong impact? You see, in my world BLT goes beyond a tasty sandwich…
Better Living for Texans (BLT) is a statewide nutrition education program created by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Texas A&M AgriLife). If you are unfamiliar with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, do not worry, I too was completely confused (Sic’Em Always).
Extension Services are nationwide and connected to the state’s Land Grant University. Land Grant Universities were established by Abraham Lincoln through the Morrill Act to connect universities to the community. In Texas, our Land Grant University is Texas A&M. Extension Services bridge America’s universities to local communities. University faculty and staff connect and work with local Extension professionals to apply their expertise and connect community members to research based knowledge.
Texas A&M AgriLife reaches every county in the state of Texas. Local needs impact Texas A&M AgriLife’s presence in every county. Some efforts include but are not limited to: mitigating drought impacts, water conservation, landscapes, and production agriculture, improving emergency management, enhancing food security, and protecting human health through education about diet, exercise, and disease prevention and management (BLT!).
Texas A&M AgriLife is literally for everyone. The Texas 4-H program engages youth every year in learning projects, leadership development, and community service. I found this necessary to explain because sometimes to understand a piece you need to see the whole picture. Here in McLennan County you too can find Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services. Our office is located downtown and houses professionals here to serve the county.
Breaking Down BLT:
Statistics show that 1 out of 6 Texans struggle with food insecurity, hunger, and eat less than the daily recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, Texas children and adults are less physically active than recommended. McLennan County is no exception and it is critical that we change these statistics in a positive direction.
BLT’s target audience is adults and children with limited resources. Whether someone is young or old, BLT was designed to help people prepare healthy meals, improve their physical fitness, save money at the grocery store, grow their own foods, and adopt better food safety habits. We provide facts rather than the latest trends. BLT is here to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives on limited resources.
BLT programs are delivered in a variety of ways and at different locations. You may see BLT programming at health fairs, community centers, food pantries, church events and, more! Groups or participants can decide from the several available curriculums or request one-time education events or cooking demonstrations. If there is an interest in health and wellness, we are there! Below are our programs topics:
Basic Healthy Living:
Basic Healthy Living covers quite a lot. Topics range from food safety, cooking, preserving, and meal planning. It is our hope that adults increase fruit and vegetable intake, learn to cook nutritious meals, and spend less on groceries. Here we want healthy eating to be practical and attainable for everyone. We are here to challenge the notion that “it’s too expensive to eat healthy.”
Healthy Aging is similar to Basic Healthy Living but focused on seniors. In our programs we talk about steps to remain independent by choosing healthy diets and staying physically active.
Maintaining a healthy weight:
Here we do not diet but we establish a healthy eating plan within one’s calorie requirements to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The gardening curriculum begins at the basics. Education includes how to select a garden location, learn techniques on how to compost, plant and water, and control insects. Participants learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and learn how to cook with produce grown from their own garden. The BLT program relies on the knowledge from the numerous Master Gardeners (another Texas A&M AgriLife program!) here in Waco. They are a great resource for learning how to grow fruits and vegetables!
Fitness is for EVERYONE, and BLT wants everyone to find their favorite way to get active and moving. We have our statewide challenge called Walk Across Texas (WAT) where people from the community create teams with family, friends, and coworkers to log walking miles; however, miles are not limited to walking. Being active and moving will get you across Texas. There are several other ways BLT works to get folks moving and to include more fruits & vegetables in everyone’s daily routine.
Although the Better Living for Texan’s program may not promote the daily consumption of a BLT sandwich, BLT is here to make health attainable and practical for all. This done through providing research and evidence-based nutrition, health and wellness knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives. BLT creates opportunities, and changes lives.
If you are interested or want to know more about the Better Living for Texans program here in McLennan County, please do not hesitate to reach out, and ask. We would love to get involved with your group or organization!
Call our office at: 254-757-5180 or email [email protected]
Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.