The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Healthy Living & Obesity Prevention with Food and Nutrition Education

Photo of Abel Macias.

Healthy Living and Obesity Prevention with Food and Nutrition Education

  • Adult obesity costs the United States as much as $150 billion in medical expenses annually
  • 65% of adults are overweight and 24% are obese in Arizona
  • 15% of adolescents are overweight and 13% are obese in Arizona



EFNEP = Improved Health + Cost Savings


Healthy Living through Nutrition Education

Abel Macias is living a healthier life, thanks to the University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension in Pinal County.

The 34-year-old dairy worker ate a diet rich in high fat meat and tortillas. He quenched his thirst with whole milk and three sodas a day. He felt sluggish and suffered from indigestion.

When Macias signed up for English and computer classes in rural Stanfield, he discovered that a year-long nutrition class was offered by Pinal County Cooperative Extension, a program of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

He figured he had nothing to lose. Macias attended every session of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program – or EFNEP. The result?

“I had to buy new clothes,” Macias said. “I lost two sizes and 20 lbs. I have so much energy now.”

During the sessions taught by Pinal County Cooperative Extension nutrition educator Esmeralda Castillo, Macias learned about the benefits of eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables while reducing fat and sugar consumption.

“I learned a lot from Esmeralda,” said Macias, who calls Castillo his “angel.”

He replaced whole milk with skim and now drinks water, with an occasional diet soda. He also eats some chicken and fish, with plenty of veggies.

 “My life has changed so much and my family’s life has changed,” said Macias, who lives with his parents and sisters.

His mother, who has diabetes, often cooks the family meals. Macias took home what he learned about nutrition and his mom has slimmed down the menus.

“If we hadn’t made these changes we would all have diabetes,” Macias said.

Castillo said the lessons learned in EFNEP can change lives.

“We are not only teaching the importance of healthy eating, we are reducing medical problems and helping families stretch their dollars,” Castillo said. Included in the curriculum are meal planning, budgeting and food safety.

Cathy Martinez, family, consumer and health sciences Cooperative Extension agent in Pinal County, said EFNEP aids in the battle against obesity, resulting in a healthier and more effective workforce.

Impact Stories

These stories provide examples of how University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension (CALS-CE) translates research-based information to help people solve real, everyday problems and improve the quality of life. They highlight the impact CALS-CE has had on Arizonans.

Read all impact stories