Elizabeth Martin, an LSU AgCenter nutrition agent based in Caddo Parish, has been named the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by the Louisiana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
A five-year veteran of the AgCenter, Martin oversees the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) for Caddo and Bossier parishes, supervising the nutrition educators for the area.
Finding trustworthy nutrition advice can be difficult, Martin said, and educating the community about nutrition is a great responsibility.
“We're a trusted source in the community,” Martin said. “People know our name. They know that what they're getting is research-based information, so they know that they can trust what we put out there.”
EFNEP helps low-income families learn about nutrition to improve behaviors and attitudes toward healthy diets.
“With the EFNEP program, we serve limited-resource audiences,” Martin said. “Being able to bring that information to a community that may not always have those resources available to them is huge.”
Martin’s EFNEP team in Caddo and Bossier parishes has developed innovative ways to reach the community, said Sharman Charles, the AgCenter EFNEP program director.
“Mrs. Elizabeth Martin is a very energetic and dedicated professional who is willing and truly interested in working with and improving the lives of all individuals,” Charles said. “She is a very conscientious, dedicated individual that is highly motivated with a commitment to excellence and an ideal work ethic.”
Martin earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from LSU and completed a dietetic internship and master’s degree at Louisiana Tech University. She then spent years as a clinical dietitian for a hospital system in Shreveport before joining the AgCenter, an institution she knew well. Her grandfather, Albert Doughty, had served as an AgCenter extension agent in Bossier Parish, and her great-grandfather, Emmet E. Johnson, was an agent in Catahoula Parish.
“I guess you could say that the LSU AgCenter is kind of in my blood,” she said.
In addition to her work leading EFNEP efforts in her area, Martin teaches Cooking in Caddo classes for children ages 9 to 12 through Flavors of Health, a community-focused nutrition education program from the AgCenter. The classes focus on the cuisines of foreign lands. In March, for example, Martin led the class in the creation of Irish soda bread, boiled cabbage, roasted parsnips and other traditional Irish food.
“It allows them to really get a hands-on experience,” Martin said. “It's a lot of fun.”
Recently, Martin has received grant funding to install little food pantries, which are boxes that hold nonperishable food items and are inspired by little free libraries in neighborhoods across the country. Area residents are free to take what they need from the pantries’ contents. Martin plans to install five pantries across Caddo Parish to help residents find nourishment in times of need.
“We all know food insecurity is a concern for Louisiana,” she said. “It has only gotten worse after COVID.”
Helping the community is why Martin joined the AgCenter five years ago.
“I really enjoy getting to know individuals in my community and working with our community partners on different projects,” she said.
Elizabeth Martin. AgCenter file photo
In her Cooking in Caddo class, nutrition agent Elizabeth Martin teaches children how to cook the cuisine of Ireland. Photo provided by Elizabeth Martin