Starkville Daily News

Willcutt: a healthy life is a happy life

- By CAL BROWN Willcutt

Samantha Willcutt is the northeast Mississipp­i regional registered dietician for the Mississipp­i State University Extension Service and she works with extension agents and nutrition educators across the northeast Mississipp­i region to implement Supplement­al Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-ED.

One big part of Willcutt's work is through the

MSU Extension Service's program named Happyhealt­hy, which focuses on helping people to live healthier lives by eating healthier food, and Willcutt spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Starkville on Tuesday, February 14 to talk about Happyhealt­hy.

Started to help make the healthy choice the easy choice, Happyhealt­hy is a program that strives to persuade children and adults into making that choice. But the challenge in accomplish­ing that is that Mississipp­i is first place in the categories Willcutt says they don't need to be in.

According to statistics Willcutt provided, 63 of Mississipp­i's 82 counties are designated as persistent child poverty areas. That makes up 77 percent of the state. 395 percent of adults and 25.4 percent of children are obese, and 25 percent of all deaths in Mississipp­i are attributed to heart disease.

With the Happyhealt­hy program, there is a logic model that Willcutt and her team teach to students in school.

“We come in and do programs with hands-on activity such as cooking,” said Willcutt. “We also work in the community to market healthy foods. We have a lot of competitio­n in that area, but not for healthy foods.”

Imagine if you go to the grocery store, you're going to check out and you see the brand name items down the aisle that are eye-level while the store brand items are harder to see or reach. When it comes down to money, stores try to convince the customer to buy certain products. That is the same strategy Happyhealt­hy ap

plies in cafeterias in schools with their method called Policy, Systems, and Environmen­tal

Change, or PSE for short. PSE is a way of modifying the environmen­t to make healthy choices practical and available to all community members.

For those who want to

live a healthier life but aren't sure where to start, there is an easy-to-follow guide called Myplate, which was created by the U.S. Department of Agricultur­e to help adults and children make healthy

choices for balanced meals and better health.

For more informatio­n about Happyhealt­hy, you can visit their website at www.happyhealt­ where you'll find newsletter­s, tips and videos, recipes, and more.

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