While many people know that SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides resources for millions of Americans in need of food assistance, they are less familiar with SNAP-Ed. A vital component of the SNAP program, SNAP-Ed teaches vulnerable Americans 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 Alabama SNAP-Ed program has been making healthy food and physical activity more accessible and appealing. With adult obesity rates now exceeding 35%, this makes Alabama have the third higest adult obesity rate in the nation. With this alarming rate in mind, SNAP-Ed educators supported the establishment, reinvigoration, and sustainability of 27 school and community gardens making fresh fruits and vegetables available to more than 4,000 Alabama residents last year.
Through joint efforts from Auburn University and Alabama A&M University, SNAP-Ed programs in Alabama 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. Nearly half of SNAP-Ed participants regularly consume a variety of fruits & vegetables. In Alabama, 25.8% of adults reported consuming vegetables less than one time daily.
SNAP-Ed benefits millions of Americans, and under Congress’ proposed 2018 Farm Bill, Cooperative Extension will have the lead role in implementing the SNAP-Ed program nation-wide.
The Cooperative Extension system as a whole is uniquely positioned to ensure impactful outcomes. Because land-grant institutions are deeply embedded in their local communities, Cooperative Extension is already customizing programs based on the unique needs of each community it serves. With more than 3,000 staff members and 23,000 volunteers, they have the infrastructure to reach the greatest number of Americans. In fact, existing programs have a 74% success rate in reaching SNAP-eligible participants.
Additionally, 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. This ensures continued impactful outcomes for participants.
What does this mean for communities like yours in Alabama? 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.