Angie Freeman, UK SNAP-Ed program assistant, talks to clients at The Healing Place about ways they and their families can eat healthier. Photo by Steve Patton, UK agricultural communications.

August 22, 2019 | By: Katie Pratt
Campbellsville, Ky.

To view the video, click here.

Program assistants and agents with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service are teaching life skills to help individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction live healthier lives once they leave treatment facilities.

Angie Freeman, Taylor County program assistant with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, offers nutrition education programs to clients at The Healing Place, an addiction recovery center in Campbellsville. She has led programs at the all-male treatment facility since 2013, presenting topics such as meal planning, MyPlate, food budgeting and food safety.

"Our eight-week class series is geared toward trying to have a healthy family and a healthy lifestyle on an economical level," Freeman said. "Hopefully, they will take the things we have talked about and go home and actually meal plan using the weekly grocery ads, so they can make a really good shopping list and eat on a more economical basis."

Within a few years of Freeman teaching the class, The Healing Place staff saw a huge difference in participants. They now require all of their clients to complete the eight-week class before leaving the treatment facility.

Steve Croghan of Columbia has been a client at the center for six months, recovering from an addiction to suboxone and methamphetamine. At the time of the interview, he was days away from graduating from Phase I of the program. He said Freeman's class gave him information that will help him as he moves forward with his life.

"Angie and Kara have been tremendously helpful for us," he said. "Angie actually takes the time with us to make us understand what is going on and gives us a lot of good nutritional values. It helps us live out there healthier."

In addition to the nutrition education, Freeman's class is in charge of a small, raised bed garden on the property. Taylor is one of 10 counties with extension personnel currently receiving a grant from SNAP-Ed to install and help manage gardens at addiction recovery centers. Kara Back, Taylor County horticulture extension agent, has worked with men at the center for two years in partnership with Freeman.

Christopher Browning is a client from New Haven, recovering from a heroin addiction. Even though he was raised in rural Kentucky, he said the gardening classes have been eye-opening. He enjoys tending the garden.

"It's something different to do in a place like this," he said. "It makes us not so sheltered in. We get to get out and do some things that we might enjoy doing on the outside."

The Healing Place started out with one raised bed garden in 2018, with their clients raising cool- and warm-season salad ingredients. They added another bed this year and plan to add another in 2020.

"I really hope they gain basic knowledge about how to grow their own fruits and vegetables," Back said. "Some of them have never really done this before, and it's just a way for them to see it firsthand. Maybe later on down the road in their life, they may be interested in growing some on their own."

Recently, 17 men graduated from Freeman's series. Croghan and Browning were two of them. Both were excited about their accomplishment.

"It's nice to actually complete something," Browning said. "I have not done so well with that the last few years of my life, but I have actually had the patience and the time to do something productive."

In addition to Taylor County Extension, agents and program assistants in Jefferson, Pendleton, Daviess, Martin, Lawrence, Pulaski, Boyd and Madison counties have received SNAP-Ed funding to partner with local addiction recovery centers to install gardens at the facilities.

UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which is dedicated to improving people's lives through excellence in education, research and outreach.

Author: Katie Pratt
Contact: Angie Freeman and Kara Back, 270-465-4511
Terms: FCS