Walking the walk: AgCenter agents awarded health, wellness grant

(02/27/23) VIDALIA, La. — In the midst of Mardi Gras season and a day after Super Bowl LVI — a time of year when healthful choices are often in short supply — LSU AgCenter Northeast Region nutrition agents and educators convened their own kickoff event to celebrate a grant from Well-Ahead Louisiana as part of National Heart Month.

The grant was written by Cecilia Stevens, food systems coordinator for the Northeast Region; Cathy Agan, area nutrition agent Ouachita Parish; and Quincy Vidrine, family and consumer sciences (FCS) regional coordinator in the fall of 2022. Its intent was to purchase exercise equipment and training to improve the health and wellbeing of Northeast Region FCS agents and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) educators. Louisiana Well-Ahead promotes health and chronic disease prevention in the workplace.

Stevens said four of the 12 parishes in the Northeast Region have been designated by the CDC as “hot parishes,” having the highest levels of obesity in the state. She says the grant will show clients that educators can not only talk the talk but walk the walk as well.

“One of the most important focuses of the grant is to do something to benefit the health of our educators and SNAP and FCS agents in this region,” she said. “Very often, we are helping others become their best selves and we wanted to do something to demonstrate that we believe in the same type of self-care as well.”

The grant includes funding for benefits not often available in the workplace, such as kettle bells for cardio and spine improvement, yoga mats for toning and relaxation, and Stevens’ personal favorite, cardio drumming kits.

Also included in the grant are items for spine health, such as ergonomic desks and chairs, and mental health, like yoga mats and training on relaxation breathing activities.

Vidrine said that while the grant is intended to help the FCS nutrition field faculty and staff work toward health and fitness goals, agents and educators in the region don’t plan to just use the equipment and training for themselves.

“I know without a doubt they will be sharing it with the many people in their parishes that they work with,” she said.

Another goal of the grant is to incorporate region-wide wellness challenges to AgCenter faculty and staff who are interested in getting healthier.

“They are so dedicated to their clientele and Healthy Communities partners, don’t be surprised to see a health and wellbeing revival in the Northeast Region,” Vidrine said.

Quincy and Cecilia.

LSU AgCenter regional coordinators Quincy Vidrine, left, and Cecilia Stevens practice their beats on cardio drum kits to get the blood flowing at their wellness kickoff event in Vidalia. The kits were purchased with the aid of a grant from Well-Ahead Louisiana. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter

Group of people in a classroom setting.

Kristen VandeVen, a volunteer with Tensas Academy, leads a group of LSU AgCenter FCS agents and SNAP educators in low-impact exercises as part of the Northeast Region’s wellness kickoff event on Feb. 13 in Vidalia. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter

2/27/2023 3:08:50 PM
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