To hear Suzanna Johnson talk, Becky Marvel is almost a superhero.
“Becky is a one-woman show — she has intelligence, resources, drive, and creativity,” says Johnson, a community educator and volunteer.
The admiration is mutual.
“Suzanna helps me make people feel empowered to make healthy, economic choices,” says Marvel, Purdue Extension-Fayette County’s Nutrition Education Program community wellness coordinator.
Today, the women work together to improve their community. One of their projects involves bringing a farmers market to underserved members of the community so that they have access to fresh produce. But Johnson and Marvel first met when Johnson was facing many personal challenges.
Johnson and her daughter Rebekah came to Fayette County homeless after escaping an abusive spouse. They owned little beside their clothes, and needed government nutrition and housing assistance. However, despite being an Indiana University alumna and small business owner, Johnson did not shy away from her new status as a self-described “welfare mom,” but embraced it, encouraging her daughter to maintain a positive, self-reliant attitude.
“I want my daughter to understand that you create your own pride, dignity, and motivation,” Johnson says. “Every community member has a duty to contribute to the community.”
So when Rebekah participated in a Purdue Extension after-school Nutrition Education Program that encouraged children to take control of their own nutrition, Johnson took notice.
“Rebekah came home talking excitedly about ‘the lady who plays with food,’” Johnson laughs. “The teacher discussed nutrition and health in a colorful, creative way. Even though we have been growing our own food since she was a toddler in a playpen, Rebekah was talking about how empowering this class was for her.”
The teacher was Marvel, and the curriculum covered balanced nutrition, food safety, physical activity, and responsibility for one’s own food — topics they are both passionate about.
Johnson credits working with Marvel for helping her get back on her feet — and Purdue Extension’s resources and support for helping turn her goals into reality.
Eventually, Johnson and Marvel began working together as colleagues and friends. Today, they teach these topics to other women in Fayette County and help provide greater access to fresh produce.
“Becky has a lot of authority and influence in our community,” Johnson says. “Purdue provides an almost overwhelming amount of research, information and support for people to connect with, and it filters through our whole community.”
Purdue Extension’s Nutrition Education Program (NEP) continues to expand education for those with limited resources and who are in communities with high poverty rates. The aim is to improve nutrition, physical activity, and food security.
Purdue Extension Educators and Community Wellness Coordinators (CWCs) are helping to reduce hunger, increase physical activity, and encourage nutrition in at-risk communities across Indiana.
65,574. Individual Indiana youth and adults participating in the SNAP-ED program (2015)
222,781. Direct educational contacts with SNAP-ED participants (adult and youth) in 2015.
25%. Increase in food security among SNAP-Ed participants (2015).
Purdue Extension’s Nutrition Education Program will continue to improve the health and wellness of those with limited resources statewide — exploring partnerships to enhance existing efforts and expanding lesson locations to reach people as needed.