The MU Extension in Franklin County has a new specialist who is dedicated to improving quality of life through nutrition and health.

Lydia Nipper is filling the role for both Franklin and Gasconade counties. She was hired in June. 

Nipper was born and raised in Union, so the decision to move back was easy.

“I wanted to move back to be with my family, but I didn’t want to quit working at Mizzou,” she said.

Nipper received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in secondary English. She taught high school English for four years, and then worked for MU at the college of education as an after-school program coordinator.

Now, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in public health from the university while serving as county specialist. Nipper is based in Owensville.

Her job is focused on offering education on nutritional health to both counties. 

One aspect of the position is helping any group or organization that requires assistance in rewriting its overall wellness and nutrition programs.

More specifically, Nipper is working with the Hermann Area District Hospital and a school in Union.

“I compile data to help them continue that planning process to find what they want wellness to look like in their organization,” she said.

Nipper also offers series classes. Currently, she’s teaching an eight-session course called “A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” in Union.

Typically, Nipper picks the class topics, but she said people can call in to request     a topic.

The most challenging part of the job is that there’s so much to do.

“It’s hard to narrow the focus and prioritize,” Nipper said. “But it is nice to have the pick of what I want to do and how I want to serve. It’s a good problem to have.”

She noted that another challenging part is time management. For example, the series classes are pretty much scheduled for the year, she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be too many programs that nutrition and health overlap with so it’s nice to provide those resources,” said Nipper. “We’re extending the quality of life for community members.”

In her previous position at MU, she was more of a mentor or coach, rather than involved with teaching, which she loves.

“The aha moments are fewer and far between when you’re a mentor or coach,” she said. “It’s nice to hear how the program is impacting people’s lives.”

As the county specialist, she has people who come to her with questions that never crossed her mind before.

“Every day my depth of learning grows,” said Nipper.

One day, someone came in and asked why people don’t eat more mulberries. So, Nipper went down a “rabbit hole” of research to find out. Beyond basic wonderment, she said it’s good for people to come with safety concerns. 

Another person came in with an inquiry about water bath canning.  Nipper found that this was a very dangerous method due to a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which can be deadly. Even hours in boiling water cannot kill it.

“It’s always good to cross-check because everything we do is research based,” said Nipper, adding if she’s can’t find the answer, she’ll find someone who can. 

For more information about the program, people can email Nipper at nipper1@missouri.edu or call the Union office at 636-583-5141.