New ag agent shares passion for health, nutrition

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The new family and consumer science agent in the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County says working in health and nutrition is a perfect blend of two of her passions.

Cassidy Hobbs is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in public health studies with a concentration in community health education.

A Clinton native, Hobbs was president of the Lakewood High School Future Farmers of America chapter.

“It gave me a better understanding of the different types of agriculture,” Hobbs said.“Growing up on a farm, I knew what I grew up with, which was row crops, cattle and tobacco, but then being involved in FFA allowed me to see the business side of agriculture, the growing portion, working with the farmers and the things like that and also the leadership. I gained a lot of public speaking skills through FFA and with those leadership roles, you have to go to a lot of opening ceremonies and do a lot of speaking engagements and things like that, so I think that has really helped me prepare for this.”

Since starting work June 1, Hobbs has been making contacts with community partners and trying to figure out the resources that Wilson communities need.

Hobbs will have a primary focus on health and wellness dealing with physical activity and nutrition. She will be going through training with N.C. State on food preservation and food safety to teach classes in those specific areas.

She will work a lot with the senior centers around the county and with preschools, including the Wilson County Partnership with Children and groups that serve limited-resource audiences.

“For children, nutrition will affect so many areas of their development,” Hobbs said. “If you have a child that has too much sugar intake, those levels of sugar can have an effect on the brain. So maybe you are feeding your kid Pop Tarts and Coke before school every day, they are not going to be able to focus. They are going to be a lot more fidgety.”

A lot of times, she said, having too much sugar in the diet gets misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“If they don’t have the proper nutrition, they are not going to focus,” Hobbs said. “They are not going to do well in school. They are not going to be as successful in life as they would have been with proper nutrition as well as the health issues that they could have in the future like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and things like that.”

Hobbs said her main goal is to teach people how to eat healthy on a budget.

“Right now there is a lot of talk about how expensive it is to eat healthy, but that’s not true,” Hobbs said.

Older adults, Hobbs said, “need to make sure that you are getting all of the proper nutrients that you need and not too much fat, not too much cholesterol and not too much sodium.”

“I want to educate them on how those different nutrients affect their body,” Hobbs said.

In the future, Hobbs will be doing cooking demonstrations at the Wilson Farmers Market.

“If people are able to see how to cook whatever it is that they are buying in a healthy way, of course that’s going to help the farmer and it’s going to help the person buying the food,” Hobbs said. “If the only way they know how to cook squash is to fry it, that’s not the healthiest option, so me being out there showing them how they can cook that produce, I think will be a great resource for them.”

Hobbs also wants to help people learn the best ways of preserving foods so they can eat healthy all year around.

“Growing up on a farm and having that background makes me more passionate to work with those farmers and try to help them out, but also my love for health and nutrition is kind of the perfect merge, the perfect blend of my two passions of how I get to work with both sides for the benefit of everyone,” Hobbs said. “I am really excited about that and I think that Wilson County is a really great area for that. I have been reaching out to a number of organizations around the county and everyone has seemed to be very welcoming and I think there is a lot of potential here.”

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 265-7818