Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SNAP Education at the Food Bank of Delaware

Getting enough food is one thing; knowing how to use it to provide a healthy diet for yourself and your family is quite another. As the food bank says, “To stretch food dollars, SNAP participants often choose foods that are low-cost and calorie-dense with a lower nutrient content. Poor dietary choices lack variety and can lead to overweight/obesity.”

Beverly Jackey and Lisa Harkins, the two energetic and creative community nutritionists employed at the Food Bank of Delaware, help people make healthy food choices within their budgets, through a set of SNAP-Ed programs for adults and children. They run 12-15 classes per month, and reach well over 1,000 separate people in a year.

For example, Beverly (left) and Lisa developed a new Kid CHEF program using a grant from Walmart. Kid CHEF targets kids between 8 and 12 years old. One dietician teaches each class of up to 12 kids. Classes meet for 5 hour-long sessions, one to prepare an easy dish (e.g., veggie wraps, fruit smoothies) from each food group that make up the USDA’s My Pyramid for kids. Each kid receives a bag of kitchen tools(a chef’s hat and apron, a whisk, a wooden spoon, a rubber scraper, measuring cups and spoons, and a pot holder) to use for the class and to take home.

Adult classes are structured differently, with fewer, longer classes. The nutritionists bring everything they need with them, so they don’t even need a kitchen. Sometimes they can run hands-on classes, but other times they can only do demos because of class size or available space.

Both the adult SNAP-Ed classes and the Kid CHEF classes are very popular. Courses are often taught at agencies that are among the 440 food bank partners, places like boys and girls clubs, summer feeding programs, after school care programs, community centers, shelters, etc. But Beverly and Lisa teach classes anywhere, to almost any number of students. One time, they held a class in a mobile home, with 30-40 people in attendance!
The USDA provides great resources to support nutrition education. Check out MyPyramid.gov to see materials such as posters, multimedia presentations, and interactive tools. The food bank uses these materials in their SNAP-Ed courses and also provides many of them as handouts for partner agencies to pick up when they come for food and distribute to their clients at pantries and shelters.

The USDA also supports SNAP-Ed through funds available to state university cooperative extension services. The Food Bank of Delaware subcontracts with the University of Delaware for half of the costs of providing their SNAP-Ed courses. In return, the SNAP-Ed courses must comply with USDA regulations, such as following the USDA dietary recommendations and ensuring that at least half the class participants are eligible for SNAP benefits.

Finally, in the center of the picture you’ll see a bag of groceries. It illustrates the groceries that the minimum SNAP benefit of $16 will buy. Meant to help convince SNAP-eligible people to apply for benefits when they think it’s too much trouble, it also shows how, with good choices, even $16 can help provide healthy meals for you and your family.

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