Study shows nutrition education leads to healthier choices by SNAP recipients

Dec. 8, 2013, Tri-State Neighbor

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a study providing clear evidence that well-designed nutrition education programs can lead to healthier food choices by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The study, SNAP Education and Evaluation Study (Wave II), evaluated the impact of several nutrition education programs on fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income elementary school children and seniors. The study found that children participating in certain nutrition education programs increased their daily fruit and vegetable consumption at home by a quarter- to a third-cup, and were more likely to choose low-fat or fat-free milk. Participating seniors consumed about a half-cup more fruits and vegetables daily.

“The results of this study reiterate the critical role of nutrition education and promotion in improving the healthfulness of SNAP purchases,” said Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “USDA and our partners continue to explore a wide-ranging set of strategies that support families as they purchase, prepare and eat more healthy foods.”

Two of the programs studied for this report provided nutrition education lessons in schools, take-home materials, and activities to low-income elementary-aged children. Researchers found that the design, content, and messages of the programs were well-received by school staff. The most successful intervention utilized a variety of methods to educate students while engaging parents and caregivers through take-home materials that helped to address concerns about providing healthy foods on a tight budget.

The third program provided direct nutrition education, take-home materials, and other materials to low-income adults aged 60 to 80 at senior sites and other gathering centers.

Researchers found that participants that completed take-home activities adopted healthier behaviors and were more engaged in discussions about overcoming the challenges and barriers to purchasing, preparing, and consuming fruits and vegetables.

The study demonstrates that effective nutrition education programs, like those supported by the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program, or SNAP-Ed, can impact SNAP participants’ willingness to try, buy, and eat more healthy foods. The program, which was recently updated though the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, emphasizes evidence-based, outcome-driven interventions, with a focus on preventing obesity and coordinating with other programs for maximum impact and cost-effectiveness. …

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) recently helped USDA develop a SNAP-Ed toolkit of existing, evidence-based, and actionable obesity prevention tools and interventions that can be easily adopted by SNAP agencies and providers at the state level. To learn more the SNAP-Ed toolkit and access the tool visit: http://nccor.org/projects/snap-ed.

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