UGA Cooperative Extension puts SNAP Education into action

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While many people know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides resources for millions of Americans in need of food assistance, most are less familiar with SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed).

SNAP-Ed teaches Americans in SNAP how to lead healthier lives at home, in school and at work, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will choose physically active lifestyles and make healthy food choices.

The Cooperative Extension System and land-grant universities have long had an important role in implementing the SNAP-Ed program nationwide.

In Georgia, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension helped more than 8,600 Georgians maximize the nutritional impact of their food budgets last year through the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences-administered SNAP-Ed program and its sister program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

That outreach represents more than 28,000 hours of food budgeting workshops, physical activity programs, and cooking demonstrations at farmers markets and Extension offices.

UGA Extension employees are part of their communities and are skilled at building trust with their audiences. That trust is key to keeping participants engaged and motivated, and it is vital to the effectiveness of health outreach efforts across the state.

In addition to USDA programming, UGA Extension Family and Consumer Science educators reached 50,000 additional Georgians through traditional Family and Consumer Sciences nutrition programming. They reached more than 1.3 million Georgians through online learning programs covering nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Both in person and through digital efforts like www.foodtalk.org and social media channels for “Food eTalk,” UGA Extension SNAP-Ed educators to serve more than 2.8 million individuals across the state.

Through UGA Extension and in small towns and urban centers across the state, SNAP-Ed educators have:

  • Helped families stretch food budgets and choose healthy options.
  • Connected low-income families with healthy resources in their neighborhoods and communities.
  • Taught low-income families how to prepare healthy foods.
  • Introduced kids to fruits and vegetables through classes, after-school programs and school gardens.

But that’s not just happening in Georgia. SNAP-Ed benefits millions of Americans. Under Congress’ proposed 2018 farm bill, the Cooperative Extension System will take the lead role in implementing the SNAP-Ed program nationwide.

Like UGA Extension, Cooperative Extension units across the country are uniquely positioned to ensure impactful outcomes. Because land-grant universities are deeply embedded in their local communities, Cooperative Extension already customizes programs based on the unique needs of each community it serves.

With more than 3,000 staff members and 23,000 volunteers, Cooperative Extension has the infrastructure to reach the greatest number of Americans. In fact, existing SNAP-Ed programs have a 74 percent success rate in reaching SNAP-eligible participants.

As a component of the land-grant system, Cooperative Extension has the ability to continually improve the SNAP-Ed program with the best data-driven methodologies and to share this information with nutrition professionals through its nationwide network. This ensures continued success for participants.

What does this mean for communities like yours? Continued — even increased — access to programs that have been continuously and rigorously evaluated to ensure that making the healthy choice is the easy choice. It also means healthier families and kids, improved learning in schools, and better work performance.

For more about the national impact of UGA Extension’s partnership with SNAP-Ed, visit www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/uga-snap-ed.

This article was adapted from a post on Ag is America on behalf of Cooperative Extension, which can be found at www.agisamerica.org/feature/cooperative-extension-assumes-lead-role-implementing-snap-ed-under-2018-proposed-farm-bill/#coopext.

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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