AgCenter partnership helps cancer survivors

Johnny Morgan  |  7/2/2019 8:26:07 PM

(07/02/19) BOGALUSA, La. — The LSU AgCenter SNAP-Ed program and the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans cancer survivorship program are working to provide nutrition information to patients in Washington Parish.

The cancer association — in partnership with the Bogalusa Strong Healthy Communities Coalition, the LSU AgCenter SNAP-Ed program, Bogalusa YMCA, the City of Bogalusa, Our Lady of The Angels Hospital and Riverside Medical Center — was awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors to establish a cancer survivorship group in Washington Parish.

Working with the Healthy Communities coalition, AgCenter nutrition professionals joined the cancer association to become a founding partner of the cancer survivorship program.

“Through this new program, we are able to identify and reach non-traditional SNAP-Ed-eligible clientele,” said Valerie Vincent, AgCenter family and consumer sciences regional coordinator.

The SNAP-Ed program provides educational programs that increase, within a limited budget, the likelihood that program participants make healthy food choices consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA MyPlate, she said.

“These residents have exhausted their financial resources fighting cancer and we can offer them education on nutrition, stretching your food dollar and gardening,” she said.

The partnership among the cancer association, the Bogalusa YMCA and the AgCenter SNAP-Ed program has been integral in starting a program for cancer survivors, she said.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette explained the importance of cancer survivors having a support system.

“We tend to have poor eating habits, and alcohol is at almost every event,” she said. “We have to teach our people to treat their bodies like a temple because here, cancer is like a cold.”

Twenty-four residents have participated in the program, which included 12 classes based on the AgCenter “Let’s Eat for the Health of It” nutrition curriculum. Six classes have been held in Franklinton and six in Bogalusa.

Sharon Lemire, who has been cancer-free for almost five years, said she learns something new about nutrition at every meeting.

The cancer survivorship group started with the nutrition classes. After graduating from the nutrition program, participants can continue to work with the Bogalusa Strong healthy community-led program at the community garden and join physical activity programs at the Bogalusa YMCA.

The partners are addressing the needs of rural cancer survivors through the program Wellness in Washington for Cancer Survivors, Vincent said.

The group’s goal is to reduce rural cancer disparities in Washington Parish through a multi-component cancer survivorship wellness program, including topics such as mental health, nutrition, physical activity and garden development.

The Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans began in 1959 with a mission to financially assist local cancer patients and their families by providing support that will enable them to continue their treatment. The organization serves 23 parishes in southeast Louisiana.

Members of the Washington Parish cancer survivors program.

Participants of the cancer survivorship group in Washington Parish attended six weeks of classes on learning to prepare nutritious meals on a tight budget. From left, Christi Mitchell, LSU AgCenter; Sharon Lemire, participant; Vern Bishop, participant; Valerie Vincent, LSU AgCenter; Wendy O'Quinn-Perrette, mayor of the City of Bogalusa; Michelle Kendall, Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans; Debbie Williams, participant and Our Lady of Angels Hospital community partner; Angela Lambert, participant and Our Lady of Angels Hospital community partner; and Toni St. Phillip, YMCA of Bogalusa Director. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

Valerie Vincent showing a portable greenhouse.

Valerie Vincent, LSU AgCenter family and consumer sciences regional coordinator, shows participants of the cancer survivorship group in Washington Parish how to make portable greenhouses. They attended one class per week for six weeks to learn about proper nutrition on a budget. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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