April 2023
Partner with NC Cooperative Extension to Support Community Health
Cooperative Extension is often called a "best kept secret," except it's not trying to hide, and would love to engage with more community members.
The Cooperative Extension Service was created over one hundred years ago by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (part of the US Department of Agriculture) to support education and outreach programs aligned with American agriculture. The Cooperative Extension centers are based out of the land grant universities (such as NC State University and NC A&T State University) in all 50 states, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The centers employ experts in health and nutrition, as well as horticulture, livestock, forestry, and youth development. Programs such as Master Gardeners and 4-H are part of Extension. In North Carolina, there are 101 local Extension centers, one in each county and one serving the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

The staff focused on health and nutrition–called Family and Consumer Science (FCS) agents in North Carolina–develop and administer programming focused on the health and nutrition needs of the population of their county. Much of their programming, such as events, workshops or courses, is free or low cost. They take into consideration the resources, funding and demographics of their local communities. Extension programming is based on the latest scientific evidence in the field and FCS programming “focuses on the importance of experiential, hands-on, and practical learning provided by a relatable [...] person.” 1

The nationwide Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) also operates through the Extension offices. EFNEP is a federal program that focuses on nutrition education for low-income families. There is a focus not only on nutrition and well-being, but on self sufficiency. EFNEP “utilizes a paraprofessional (i.e., peer educator) model that draws upon shared life experiences and fosters credibility and trust between participant and EFNEP agent1."

Healthcare professionals and community members can use Cooperative Extension to meet patient and personal goals. Extension agents can help community members with nutrition education, learn how to grow and cook their own food, and find ways to eat food that has been grown locally. By including this resource in the recommendations for patients looking for a way to improve health, patients gain a wealth of specialized information available to every person living in the county.
Find your local Cooperative Extension Center
In North Carolina, visit ces.ncsu.edu and click on “County Centers” in the top right corner. Click on your county to find the experts in your area. (Search here if you’re outside North Carolina)

This newsletter, FRESH Rx, is a publication of NC State Extension through the Plants for Human Health Institute’s PhytoMedicine program effort. My goal is to deliver research-based information to providers and the public that will improve human health through nutrition education. One of my primary initiatives right now is launching the PhytoRx program; an educational course for providers to empower them with knowledge to include nutritional guidance in a treatment plan for a specific diagnosis, and build a network of resources–including county FCS agents–that offer support to the patient in filling a fruit and vegetable prescription.
What is PhytoRx and how can it work for you?
PhytoRx is a new program that helps healthcare professionals learn how to prescribe specific phytochemical-rich produce for targeted diseases.
PhytoRx fosters connections between healthcare professionals and Extension agents to tap into nutrition education for patients and food distributors to make the foods critical to health available and accessible to those in the program.

PhytoRx takes the research that is being done on food nutrients and phytochemicals and delivers it to providers so they can learn how to prescribe produce for pathology. Let me explain further. Plants not only contain vitamins and minerals, but also plant chemicals (called phytochemicals) that can have human health benefits. Phytochemicals have distinct chemical structures that work with the body’s biochemical pathways to mitigate and, sometimes, treat disease. There has been a growing interest in and awareness of anthocyanins (in berries), lycopene (in tomatoes), or carotenoids (in orange and dark green vegetables). These are phytochemicals.

Often there is confusion about the “right” diet to follow. Is it Adkins, Keto, Paleo, vegan, low-fat? PhytoRx uses the Mediterranean diet as the basis for the educational component of the program. In research studies, the Mediterranean style of eating has been shown to improve chronic diseases3,2. We have incorporated the MED Instead of Meds program, developed and delivered by NC Cooperative Extension, because of its reliable and versatile applications of the Mediterranean style of eating. Lessons on phytochemicals and their role in preventing and treating diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eye-related diseases4, skin diagnoses, and cancers are also woven into PhytoRx.
Interested in learning more about the PhytoRx program or discussing how to get a program started in your community? Contact Cheri Granillo at [email protected].
PhytoRx Recipe: Crunchy Lentils
It’s no secret that I think lentils are underappreciated and if you haven’t loved a lentil recipe we’ve shared so far, I’d humbly ask that you give this one a shot before you give up on lentils. The taste and texture is nothing like the cooked version, but the nutritional punch is as present as ever. They are a great on-the-go snack or as a salad topping. 

Does your salad need a refresh? Check out our mix and match suggestions for a Tossed Side Salad.

1. Cason, K. L., Chipman, H., Forstadt, L. A., Rasco, M. R., Sellers, D. M., Stephenson, L., & York, D. S. A. (2017). Family and consumer sciences focus on the human dimension: The expanded food and nutrition education program example. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 109(3), 10-17.

2. Çıtar Dazıroğlu, M. E., & Acar Tek, N. (2023). The Effect on Inflammation of Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Current Nutrition Reports, 12(1), 191–202.

3. Dominguez, L. J., Veronese, N., Di Bella, G., Cusumano, C., Parisi, A., Tagliaferri, F., Ciriminna, S., & Barbagallo, M. (2023). Mediterranean diet in the management and prevention of obesity. Experimental Gerontology, 174, 112121.

4. Mulpuri, L., Sridhar, J., Goyal, H., & Tonk, R. (2023). The relationship between dietary patterns and ophthalmic disease. Current Opinion in Ophthalmology, 34(3), 189–194.
Let's connect!
Cheri Granillo
Translational Nutrition Program Manager