An opportunity to learn and grow while giving back to the community is available through Penn State Extension's new certified food and wellness volunteer training program, as the program continues into its third year.

According to Lynn James, Penn State educator, "We are looking for people with some knowledge and interest in foods, nutrition and food safety who want to become more involved with community wellness." Applications are now being accepted for program volunteers to be trained for the current program year.

The certified food and wellness volunteer course is a comprehensive course offering 40 hours of training, using online training modules for much of the education and ending with a full day of on-site training at Penn State University in State College on May 7. Participants will need computer access and the ability to travel to State College for the on-site training. The cost for the training program and certification is $125. Partial scholarships are available for those with financial need.

This is a great opportunity for people who would like to be more involved in promoting good health and wellness in their communities. Some knowledge of nutrition and experience in working with foods is desirable, but the most important qualification is a strong desire to learn more about nutrition, diet and health and having a desire to help others in the community improve their lives, using research based information.

Upon completing the program, food and wellness volunteers will give back 40 hours of service to Penn State Extension programs in nutrition and wellness. Volunteers will be able to use educational tools such as MyPlate, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Nutrition Facts Label to help others plan, buy, store and prepare foods within their budgets. Volunteers will work with the public by making presentations and assisting with Penn State programs. Individual interests will be considered in service hours.

This new training program is based on the model of the highly successful Master Gardener Training Program offered by Penn State Extension. According to Mary Ann Ryan, the Adams County coordinator for Master Gardener, Mary Ann Ryan, "The model used in the Master Gardener program works well for our volunteers. They get to same interests, have the opportunity to talk about their passion and continue to learn through the continuing education program they take part in each year."

The application deadline for Northumberland, Snyder, Montour and Union counties is Friday, Feb. 28. Contact Lynn James at 570-988-3950 or email at Ljames@psu.edu for the application and brochure. Short interviews will be scheduled for final selection of volunteers for the training program. More information can also be found at http://extension.psu.edu/health.