East Region ‘Dinner Tonight!’ Development Team wins Superior Service Award

COLLEGE STATION — The East Region Dinner Tonight Development Team recently received the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Superior Service Award in the team category.

The award, presented Jan. 8 during the annual Texas A&M AgriLife Conference in College Station, is given to staff who demonstrate outstanding performance or provide exceptional service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

AgriLife Extension team members are Dr. Susan Ballabina, East Region program director, family and consumer sciences; Dana Tarter, county director in Tarrant County; Carrie Brazeal, agent in Collin County; Dee Lee Smith, agent in Gregg County; Donna White, agent in Erath County; Halee Mitchell, agent in Eastland County; Julie Gardner, agent in Coryell County; Jennifer Leone, office associate, East Region family and consumer sciences; and Angel Fattorini, video project coordinator AgriLife Communications, College Station.

Since the 1970s, families began spending an ever-increasing proportion of their food budgets on restaurant and pre-prepared food, Ballabina said.

This trend meant people were not only spending more money on food, but were not eating as healthful in the bargain, she said.

“There is a tendency to choose foods higher in calories when dining out,” Ballabina said. “Also, large portions are increasingly common in restaurants.”

The solution was to encourage people to prepare more meals at home, she said.

“But many people become overwhelmed when they think of menu planning and preparing healthy, cost-effective meals for their families.”

In 2008, East Region Dinner Tonight Development Team began brainstorming ways to encourage people to prepare more meals at home and to improve their eating habits. The result of these brainstorming meetings was the Dinner Tonight! program.

The program produces weekly video trainings, which are made available to the public on the Dinner Tonight! website at http://healthyliving.tamu.edu/dinners/ and also released through the Dinner Tonight Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/txdinner).

The team has produced a weekly training video every Monday to date since March 16, 2009. Visitors to the Dinner Tonight! website have steadily increased during that time, from 8,102 in 2009 to 16,614 by 2011.

“Many agents across the state are now using the weekly video demonstrations in a variety of ways,” Ballabina said. “For example, most FCS agents have signed up to receive the weekly emails that announce the video of the week. Then the agents take the text of the email and send it out to local distribution lists they have created. This provides an educational opportunity, as well as a method of constant and regular contact with clientele.”


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