For people recovering from addiction, a good meal can serve as a powerful force.

“Little things like that will help you stay clean and sober,” said Jennifer Stewart, coordinator of the Sobriety Living Center in Pine Bluff, as she reflected on the value of a meal with family members. She was talking to about 10 residents of the center on Monday after a presentation about nutrition.

The presentation was delivered by Courtney Fisher, a program aide for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, offered by the 1890 Cooperative Extension Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Fisher’s presentation was part of a series of sessions at the Sobriety Living Center focusing on nutrition, food safety, effective money management and other related topics.

Teresa Henson, nutrition outreach coordinator for the 1890 Cooperative Extension Program at UAPB, said the nutrition program is offered at various locations in the area, such as the Sobriety Living Center. She also said she’d like to see the nutrition program utilized more frequently.

“I just want to see more interaction and participation,” Henson said, and she noted that even small groups are welcome to call.

“If you have a group of people … and you know of a central location, then we can come to that location,” she said. “What we consider a group number is two people. We know if we start with two people, then word-of-mouth will start and more people will join.”

Henson noted five areas of focus in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which she said lasts about 10 weeks. Those areas include food safety, diet quality, resource management, physical activity and food insecurity.

This federal nutrition program is far-reaching. As explained on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture website, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program is “a Federal Extension (community outreach) program that currently operates through the 1862 and 1890 Land-Grant Universities (LGUs) in every state, the District of Columbia, and the six U.S. territories – American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.”

In Jefferson County, the nutrition program has been offered at food pantries, the CASA Women’s Shelter, churches and – with a curriculum designed for younger participants – the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County and various schools, Henson said. She noted that the curriculum includes hands-on activities such as food demonstrations to spark participation.

Along with Henson, Fisher also described a slice of the program before Monday’s session.

“We talk about getting the best for less and how to compare-shop and how to do unit-pricing,” Fisher said.

Toward the end of the presentation on Monday, residents tasted a sampling of a meatloaf prepared from one of the recipes included in the EFNEP materials. That’s when the group really started to share thoughts.

“What would you add to make it a meal?” asked Lisa Collins, a program aide with EFNEP who was assisting Fisher.

Residents voiced responses – such as salsa, black-eyed peas and a baked potato – as they imagined a full meal in a social gathering taking shape. At least a couple of residents noted that they cook a good deal on their own.

Other residents noted the overall importance of the Sobriety Living Center in their lives, as well as the importance of interacting with others. And it’s that notion of interaction that Stewart seized upon as she thought about the role of the nutrition program – and other sorts of outside presentations – in the lives of residents who stay at the Sobriety Living Center.

“A lot of these guys just need to know that someone cares,” Stewart said. “That matters more to them than people might realize.”

People seeking information about the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program can call Henson at 870-575-7227.