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Program encourages home-cooked meals with local produce

Families who eat a home-cooked meal that includes local foods generally eat better as well as help sustain their local economy, according to Christine Olson, professor of nutritional sciences.

Now she's teamed up with Cornell Cooperative Extension to create a program that encourages families to prepare dinners at home that include locally grown produce.

The campaign called "Eat Well. Eat Local. Eat Together." -- or Eat3 -- is being rolled out in 20 New York counties this summer.

"This is a unique nutrition program in that its messages go beyond what to eat and urge families to consider where their food comes from and the social settings in which food is consumed," Olson said. "Eating a home-prepared meal that includes locally grown foods generally leads families to eat more fruits and vegetables, more dairy and whole grains and fewer soft drinks."

The program was developed last year in six counties by the Healthy Start Partnership, a multicounty coalition of health and nutrition professionals working to promote healthy weights in child-bearing women and their infants. Then, it was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The program was such a success last year that Helene Dillard, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, provided funding for this year's campaign, which will reach out to families via such venues as farmers markets, county fairs, community garden programs and local newspapers.

From July to November, the campaign will promote two healthy recipes each month that emphasize child-friendly foods that take advantage of local, seasonal produce. In addition, Cooperative Extension staff will distribute postcards and refrigerator magnets to remind families to eat nutritious food together.

The campaign also features a Web site -- http://eat3.org/ -- where families can enter to win a monthly drawing for grocery store gift certificates and find additional recipes and nutrition information.

Sheri Hall is assistant director of communications at the College of Human Ecology.

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Joe Schwartz