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SNAP-Ed program means healthier lives

SNAP-Ed program means healthier lives

Pat Bebo and Rick Klemme, Opinion contributors
Published 10:49 a.m. ET Aug. 5, 2018

While many people know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 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 continue to make healthy food choices.

The SNAP-Ed program is implemented in most states by Cooperative Extension, a nationwide educational and outreach network that translates the research from land-grant universities like Ohio State into action, bringing cutting-edge discoveries in technology and learning methods to benefit children, families, communities, agriculture and businesses. The program benefits millions of low-income Americans every year, the majority (65 percent) of whom are children 5 to 17 years old.

SNAP-Ed is federally funded program that falls under the Farm Bill, which is currently being considered by both houses of Congress. Under the proposed bill, Ohio State University Extension will lead a partnership of community organizations to better implement evidence-based nutrition education and policy changes that make the healthy choice the easy choice in settings where low-income Ohioans shop, learn, live, and eat.

Ohio State University Extension has implemented SNAP-Ed across the state since 1996 and continued to provide high-quality programs to the most nutritionally vulnerable Ohioans. This is extremely important as 75 percent of adults and youth in Ohio do not eat fruits and vegetables at least one time daily, when health officials recommend multiple serving of fruits and vegetables per day.

Through Cooperative Extension, SNAP-Ed programs in Ohio 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 in school classes, after-school programs, and school gardens. Nearly half of SNAP-ED participants regularly consume a variety of fruits & vegetables.

The Cooperative Extension system as a whole is uniquely positioned to ensure impactful outcomes nationwide. 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 percent success rate in reaching SNAP-eligible participants.

Additionally, as the outreach arm 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 – 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.

We believe strongly that Ohio State University Extension is the right organization to lead the administration and implementation of the SNAP-Ed program in Ohio. In partnership with the existing Cooperative Extension network and with other community organizations, we know that we have the unique capability to manage and deliver programs that will be continuously and rigorously evaluated to ensure impactful outcomes for thousands of Ohioans.

In addition, from its inception, the SNAP-Ed program was aimed at keeping government spending in check. A healthier population means a decrease in long-term health care costs. A SNAP-Ed program that is continuously and rigorously evaluated and adjusted accordingly, benefits not only program recipients but also American taxpayers.

The changes in the proposed 2018 Farm Bill puts the SNAP-Ed program in the hands of a nationwide educational system that is uniquely positioned to meet these expectations. Through Ohio State University Extension, the SNAP-Ed program will be a continued success that helps low-income Ohioans lead healthier lives, be better parents and learners, and be more productive in their jobs.

Pat Bebo is the assistant director of extension family and consumer sciences for the Ohio State University Extension. Rick Klemme is executive director for extension committee on organization and policy and a former cooperative extension director at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. 

 

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