LSU AgCenter Earl K. Long Team To Combat Poor Nutrition

Heli J. Roy, Charles, Sharman J., Claesgens, Mark A.  |  11/11/2006 3:02:55 AM

LSU AgCenter extension agent Sharman Charles of East Baton Rouge Parish, standing, teaches nutrition classes to people referred by physicians at LSU’s Earl K. Long Hospital. Seated, from left, in this session are Maggie J. Dunn, Jerry Hebert and Clara T. Hebert, all of Baton Rouge.

News Release Distributed 12/05/2003

The LSU AgCenter and LSU’s Earl K. Long Hospital have joined forces to help those whose health is at risk because of poor nutrition.

Doctors at the state hospital in Baton Rouge now refer at-risk patients to LSU AgCenter nutrition educators working in its Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

EFNEP is a federally funded program with the mission of assisting limited-resource families and youth in improving their health, having a better quality of life through improved diets and making better selections when buying foods by managing food budgets and related resources. The LSU AgCenter conducts the program in Louisiana.

"Since EFNEP’s mission complements the hospital’s mission to serve the poor and uninsured, pairing the two institutions was a natural," said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.

Such a connection was just what Earl K. Long family practice chief Dr. Jule Griebrok-Assercq was looking for.

"Prior to finding out about the EFNEP, I had been trying to figure out how to educate patients about nutrition," the physician said, explaining, "The best I could offer them was a brief encounter with a nutritionist and a few handouts."

"I really was at a loss as to how to educate the large numbers of patients we see who desperately need help with this (nutrition education)," Griebrok-Assercq said of the time before she found out about EFNEP, adding, however, "You can only imagine my delight at discovering that the program was already developed and looking for us!!"

Sharman Charles, an LSU AgCenter extension agent in East Baton Rouge Parish, leads local EFNEP instructors and teaches classes, too. She knows first hand how helpful the program has been.

"Dr. Jule wrote to me and said she was so happy with the arrangement that she plans ‘to overwhelm’ me with patients," Charles said.

The LSU AgCenter agent also noted that the Earl K. Long family practice chief reports positive reactions from the clients – classes are educational, fun and something to look forward to.

Entertainment, however, is not the goal in a program where grave health threats loom over the participants.

"Poor nutrition contributes to so much of the poor health that I must deal with," Griebrok-Assercq said, adding, "Obesity is rampant in our population at Earl K. Long."

The doctor lamented, "Our patients simply do not understand what it means to eat right."

Charles said one of the obstacles in teaching nutrition – in any setting – is the attitude that it takes money to eat right. "I can’t afford it," is a common response, she said.

"Proper nutrition does not have to be expensive," the educator counters, stressing, "That’s one of the messages we try to get across."

The nutrition lessons are conducted by certified nutrition educators and an extension professional. The course cycle runs six weeks, in which clients attend a two-hour class twice a month – every other week – on weekday mornings or on Thursday evenings. If the program is successful, it may be expanded to other sites.

More nutrition and EFNEP information, as well as information on a variety of other issues, is available on the LSU AgCenter’s Web site at


Heli Roy at (225) 578-3329 or
Sharman Charles at (225) 389-3056 or
Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture