THOMASVILLE — Extension service agents who focused on cooking and sewing are a thing of the past.
Ashleigh Childs, Thomas County's new cooperative extension service employee, is the family and consumer services agent, filling a position that has been vacant for nine years.
Childs said her position is not all about cooking and sewing. Other things, such as finance, must be learned, she said, adding that sewing is referred to today as textiles.
"We focus our cooking now on smart shopping," Childs said.
Smart shopping revolves around what food is best for good health, keeping costs in mind.
"The focus now is more on how you cook for health," Childs said.
She will provide information to the public about the different types of cancer and how a proper diet and exercise can help prevent the disease.
Before joining the Thomas County extension office on March 1, Childs, who grew up in Moultrie, worked at the district extension office in Tifton. There, she held a grant-funded position to promote nutrition resulting in a healthy lifestyle.
Childs earned a bachelor's in family and consumer science education at the University of Georgia. She is working toward a master's in community nutrition at UGA.
Also a certified teacher, Childs considered teaching.
"I knew extension is what I wanted to do," she said.
Health and finances go together, 23-year-old Childs said. If a person's finances are not handled wisely, the situation can lead to stress and mental health issues, she said.
Nine years ago, a statewide hiring freeze was invokedon the position Childs holds. Later, the position was cut at a number of extension services, Childs said. Eventually, the decision was made to restore the position to some locations on the Georgia-Florida state line.
"Pertinent information was not being disseminated in those counties," she said.
Although her position's duties do not involve solely cooking and sewing, Childs does like to cook. Her favorite dish to prepare is sweet potato soufflé. It is her signature dish at family Thanksgiving gatherings. Her healthy strawberry muffins were available on a recent day as visitors entered the Smith Avenue extension office. Childs made the muffins to demonstrate that healthy food is not boring and tasteless.
Childs recalled being "badgered" in her school cafeteria about whole-wheat rolls and the five food groups. Now she understands the badgering about healthy eating.
In her new position, she will work with school nutrition directors, the health department and Archbold Memorial Hospital to create a culture of health. She will establish a professional leadership team to identify community nutrition needs.
"If you don't feel well, you don't perform well," Childs said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820