Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Do you know what I do - and why I do it?

Last year I had the opportunity to be a part of an article about Food $ense. I was so nervous to tell my story and to be so personal. It is hard to let someone know that you have struggled or that you aren't perfect. 

But this has so quickly become my passion - you guys!! if I can do this - You can Too! So here in the article in all the craziness that is this bonkers life. (Unflattering photos - and TMI and all!) 

USU Extension Food $ense Program Becomes a Way of Life

            Kerry Garvin became both a Food $ense program employee and a user within two weeks’ time. The Box Elder County resident was the mother of three and in need of employment after a divorce more than three years ago. She took a part-time job with the Food $ense program assisting in their office, and as she learned about the program, she realized what a great help it would be to her own family.

**(This is me 8 & 3/4 months pregnant - I am about as happy as Alice to be posing for this photo)**

            Food $ense, also known as SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education) provides nutrition education to program participants and those eligible for food stamps and operates as a partnership between Utah State University Extension, USU’s Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences and the Utah Department of Workforce Services in Utah. The program offers classes in nutrition, budgeting, cooking, food safety and physical activity.
            “The things Food $ense teaches are things that make sense, but they can seem harder than they really are, and people may be reluctant at first,” Garvin said. “The first Food $ense lesson is on menu planning. It was foreign to me because to that point I hated to cook, and in my first marriage, we ate out five nights a week. The kitchen was this daunting Mt. Everest and the place I would pass through to get to the laundry room.”

            Garvin, now married to Joseph Garvin, has a blended family of seven children with another on the way.

            “Dinner time can be stressful with that many kids,” she said. “Around 4:30 or 5, everyone wanted to know what’s for dinner, and I hated that because I hadn’t even thought about it. I knew I needed to change my habits, and when I learned about menu planning, I was stunned at the difference it made. All the power you lose when you don’t have a plan comes back.”

            The next step in the program is what Food $ense calls, “cook once, eat twice.” When cooking rice, make a double batch with some for later in the week. Cook a double portion of chicken or chop extra vegetables and put them in sealable bags for later.

            “It’s amazing how much time that can save, and you feel prepared for the week,” Garvin said. “I’m gaining confidence in the kitchen and I went from thinking I just needed to fill their stomachs to realizing that mealtime is a really important experience for our family.”

            Garvin said having a plan has taken off the pressure and helped her gain more patience, and she enlists the kids’ help with each meal.

            “As a newly blending family, being in the kitchen is a great time to be with the kids one on one,” she said. “If someone is having a hard day, we can talk about it in a really comfortable environment while we prepare dinner.”

            Garvin said the program has helped her learn that even a little change can make a huge difference, and that all pieces in the program fit well together.

            “Last fall, Joseph lost his job, and the parts of the program that I had been putting off learning, like budgeting and food pricing, became a necessity,” she said.

            Particularly helpful to their family was the recently introduced Food $ense Creates Curriculum. The program focuses on helping participants assemble a healthy meal that is quick, inexpensive and tasty. It offers tips on how to have a carefully stocked pantry and kitchen with options and recipes for using what is available to create casseroles, stir fry meals, quick breads, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts and more.

            “This curriculum came into our lives at the perfect time,” Garvin said. “We have had to use food storage and people have given us food, and Creates has helped us stretch the food budget and make really good meals with the food on hand. There are a lot of emotions going on, but I can keep everyone nourished and healthy and happy and that helps eliminate some of the stress.”
            Garvin said the Food $ense program has given her confidence and helped her be in control in the kitchen rather than having the kitchen control her.

            Garvin is now over the Food $ense blog,, where she is charged with living the program, then blogging about it. She said she is delighted to blog about and share her take on a program that has literally changed her life.

            According to Heidi LeBlanc, USU Extension professor and director of the Utah Food $ense program, Garvin is a great example of living the simple concepts taught in Food $ense. 
            “Through her blog, she teaches families how to incorporate healthy cooking, shopping and eating habits that will help stretch the family food budget,” LeBlanc said.

            Food $ense is a free program available in each county in Utah. Classes are taught in groups and also online. For further information on the Food $ense program, visit, or visit for recipes and ideas for cooking for one.

This was written by Julene Reese for a USU Extension publication. 

Julene Reese
Utah State University Extension Writer