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For more information on educational presentations and/or information requests please call Sarah Sturgill, WV University Extension educator at (304) 586-0217 or email her at Sarah.Sturgill@mail.wvu.edu.

Families and Health

The West Virginia Extension Service translates West Virginia University’s research and knowledge into action. Extension educators and staff in West Virginia’s 55 counties address the needs of families and communities on a daily basis. Extension collaborates with many partners to assess needs and to meet those needs by helping people help themselves.

The Families and Health program empowers families to improve their overall well-being – physical, emotional, and social – through educational opportunities. The major thrust of this program focuses on the areas of entrepreneurship, food safety, wellness, and chronic disease risk prevention.



WVU Extension Brings Important Health Message to Putnam County Special Olympics

Extension Agent Sarah Sturgill helping a Special Olympics participant. It is an unfortunate fact that children with disabilities are almost twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to be overweight or obese. For disabled children, this means far more than decreased self-esteem. Excess weight among the disabled can contribute to decreased mobility, fatigue and pain from strained joints and muscles, increased risk of heart disease, and overall reduced quality of life.


Helping children and their parents understand the importance of a balanced diet and its importance is one key step to reducing their risk of excessive weight gain. On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, Putnam County Extension Agent and registered dietitian, Sarah Sturgill, took part in the Putnam County Special Olympics by helping this year’s participants learn the basics of a healthy diet.

“I wanted to create a fun, interactive way for participants to learn how make healthy choices,” Sarah said in reference to a game that challenged participants to determine whether a food was an “always food” or a “sometimes food.”

“These are just simple classifications for foods that are either always healthy options, or for foods with which we should exercise moderation. Obviously it’s much more complex than that, but when you only have three minutes with each student, it’s best to maximize your time and effort with a simple message.”


“Always foods” are foods that have a significant nutritional benefit without containing excessive amounts of unhealthy ingredients such as salt, sugar, or saturated fat. These foods include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meat, nuts and seeds, and beans. These foods should make up the majority of what we choose to eat each day. “Sometimes foods” are foods that may or may not have any health benefit, but do contain a higher amount of calories, salt, sugar, or saturated fat. A baked potato loaded with butter and salt, pizza, dessert foods, snack foods, and sugary drinks are all examples of “sometimes foods”. These foods should not be eaten on a regular basis, with some avoided almost entirely.

Special Olympics participants playing nutrition game. Unfortunately, in today’s households “sometimes foods” have largely replaced “always foods.”

“If kids are getting most of their nutrition from fast food, soda, snacks, and sweets, their growing bodies will be deprived of nutrients which will affect their health right now and far into the future,” said Sarah.

Research in the midst of the national childhood obesity crisis has shown that children who do not receive adequate nutrition are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease later in life.

“The best thing parents can do for their children is to be a good role model and to be patient. Children are excellent imitators. If parents don’t care about their own health and choose unhealthy foods, their children will do the same,” said Sarah. “It may take some time to change what your child eats, and you may encounter resistance, but over time, the love you show through perseverance can make a difference in whether your child will have a healthy and happy life for years to come.”

For more information on how to help your family live a healthier lifestyle, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

*All participants signed a photo release form through the Putnam County Special Olympics.
A great turnout at the Putnam County Special Olympics

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