PSE Program — Local Happenings
Highlighting Massachusetts SNAP-Ed Success
For over twenty years Massachusetts has operated a SNAP Nutrition Education (SNAP-Ed) program improving nutrition and increasing participants' ability to select, purchase, prepare, and consume healthy foods. Massachusetts has structured the SNAP-Ed program with an emphasis on school-aged children. The school environment is an ideal setting where teachers reinforce the nutrition lessons throughout the year. The school setting also allows SNAP-Ed to be influential in cafeterias, school gardens, School Wellness Committees, choices for healthy fundraisers and physical activities (such as Safe Routes to School etc.). Parents of participating children receive nutrition newsletters/handouts and they attend events with their children, such as Family Nights and Suppers. SNAP-Ed also offers programming for adults and elders which range from classroom sessions and community gardening to grocery shopping tours and cooking classes.
In the past five years, SNAP-Ed has averaged:
- Over 55,000 program participants each year
- Close to 46,000 of these participants were between the ages of 5-17
In 2017, SNAP-Ed reached 70,333 youth and adult participants through nutrition education.
Nutrition Education Activities
Nutrition Education was delivered in 896 sites (listed in descending order):
Public Housing Sites
Youth Education Sites
Early Childhood and Head Start Programs
Farmers' Market and Mobile Markets
Community Health Centers
Adult Education and Job Training Programs
Elder Service and Adult Rehabilitation Centers
Nutrition Education for youth and adults who took part in a series of classes reported signficant positive behavior change in these healthy habits:
- Eating more fruits and vegetables (youth and adults)
- Increased skills and strategies for healthy food preparation (adults)
- Being physically active through walking (youth and adults) and teacher-led classroom activities (youth)
Policy, System, and Environmental (PSE) Change
The two Multi-Level Specialists coordinate PSE program opportunities, planning, and reporting for all Implementing Agencies in Massachusetts. Each specialist also focuses on statewide partnerships to advance SNAP-Ed's involvement with state-level PSE Initiatives.
University of Massachusetts Extention:
The UMass Nutrition Education Program has developed partnerships to support SNAP-Ed regionally across Massachusetts. In collaboration with identified partners, SNAP-Ed staff supported the adoption of healthy vending options at two adult education sites and the adoption of healthier school fundraisers policy in a school district. Additional projects include the development of a menu of daily physical activities which teachers use in the classroom in two school districts. There were also three projects around gardening: one garden planting guidebook for schools; one afterschool gardening club; and the Harvest for the Hungru program on Cape Cod, where local gardeners donate excess produce to local food pantries.
Ascentria SNAP-Ed staff facilitated the maintenance of a local community garden with the Gray House, a non-profit social service agency that helps individuals meet immediate and transitional needs. The community garden was used as a teaching plot for SNAP-Ed and a safe space for participants to grow and harvest local, ethnic produce. Many refugee clients come from strong agricultural backgrounds; however they have limited resources and space upon arrival to the U.S. This iniative allowed for an expanded impact beyond direct education and assisted in providing space for refugee and immigrant populations to grow and share local produce.
Cooking Matters partners with agencies such as ABCD Head Start in Boston to offer six-week courses and one-time grocery store tours to SNAP eligible parents of the Head Start children. As a result of these programs, Cooking Matters participants report that they are now confident that they can buy and cook healthy meals on a budget. The partnership with ABCD Head Start is expanding to include a new PSE project that will yield training modules for kitchen staff. Modules will focus on techniques for making fruits and vegetables more appealing to the children at the Head Start sites. The goal is for meals to be presented in a way that makes children more excited to try it. Topics will include using different cooking techniques, making appropriate substitutions, and talking with the children about new foods they are trying.
Bay Cove/Kit Clark:
Bay Cove/Kit Clark Senior Services is committed to helping older Bostonians age with grace and dignity. A Healthy Parties Policy was created to support this mission by communicating the important role that nutrition plays througout the lifespan. The policy provides guidelines for breakfast, snacks, and celebrations. SNAP-Ed staff created sample menus to guide Kit Clark staff in selecting healthy options that will allow the program to be in compliance with the CACFP and recive reimbursable meals credit. The policy change has been well-received by the Adult Day Health Staff who serve an average of 100+ clients per day.