Connecting the Dots: From State to National SNAP-ED

By Hannah Lundeen

SNAP, SNAP-Ed, FNS. What does it all mean? For my first rotation, I was able to spend two weeks at SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- Education) Connection. This USDA-funded program provides resources and support for individual state programs who in turn provide nutritional benefits to low-income Americans. Not all state agencies go by the name SNAP. For example, California goes by CalFresh Healthy Living Program and Oregon goes by Food Hero. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is the organization within the USDA that oversees and funds SNAP and SNAP-Ed. The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy food and lifestyle choices. Within my first rotation, I built upon past experiences, learned how the national SNAP-Ed team supports the state agencies, and explored new interest areas.  

As an undergraduate, I worked on Food Hero’s social marketing platform, performed regular website maintenance, and assisted with in-person education events and data entry. I was able to relay this through a 20 minute presentation on the Food Hero campaign to the SNAP-Ed Connection team. I spoke on how I got involved, website features, resources for educators, social marketing, and success stories. Although it was over Zoom, this experience allowed me to practice my public speaking skills and my ability to summarize information in a succinct manner. 

The SNAP-Ed Connection website showcases success stories specific to each state. Implementing agencies can submit success stories in order to be featured nationally. My partner and I were asked to reach out to our home state and offer the opportunity to write a success story. Since I already had an understanding of the Food Hero campaign, I took the initiative and wrote the success story myself. I wrote about Food Hero’s Spring Break Bingo project, an initiative aimed at increasing health-promoting behaviors for children outside of school. In 2019, bingo cards with healthy activity ideas were sent home before spring break in 56 Oregon schools (Food Hero, 2019). Results showed that the bingo cards did help to increase healthy behaviors. For example, 1384 students ate breakfast, 1316 students had dinner with their family, and 1143 students chose a fruit or vegetable for a snack (Food Hero, 2019). Additionally, to show how Food Hero works to meet the needs of its target audiences, I explained how they reached families during the COVID-19 pandemic through an online Bingo at Home page. Find the published story here

Furthermore, SNAP-Ed Connection website houses excellent resources that state programs can use, such as the SNAP-Ed library. States can submit electronic materials that they deem helpful. These materials are reviewed by SNAP-Ed Connection faculty and then added to the library. States use the library to research what has been done in the past in other regions as they create and implement new programs.  One of the final projects I worked on was reviewing and providing feedback on the SNAP-Ed library submission form in order to make it more user-friendly. 

An area that I was excited to gain new experience in was food photography. When my preceptor asked if I would be interested in taking photos of recipes for the SNAP-Ed connection website, I eagerly agreed. The morning of the photoshoot, my partner and I set about to collect the ingredients for five recipes. Once we got home, we were enthusiastically sharing ideas on how to best take the photographs. As the afternoon went on and we made our way through the recipes, our sense of appreciation for food photographers grew – it is not as easy as it looks. We considered many technical details in order to get the best possible shot. Some of the insights gleaned from this experience included learning how to utilize lighting, props, and camera angles to make the food look as aesthetically pleasing as possible. For example, we learned how important the backdrop is by testing out different areas around the house. We took photos in different rooms as well as outside, trying out a variety of backdrops. We found that areas near windows or outside yield the best results. We also practiced editing photos in Adobe Lightroom, which allows users to adjust factors such as exposure, contrast, and shadows, resulting in better lighting. Below is a photo of the SNAP Salsa Pinto Beans recipe that is now up on the USDA MyPlate Kitchen website. 

As I wrapped up my time at SNAP-Ed Connection, I thought that since each state-run SNAP organization functions semi-independently, it’s great to have an organization such as SNAP-Ed Connection to both support the state organizations and highlight how the programs make a difference across the country. Through utilizing past experience as well as being open to new opportunities, I made the most out of my first internship rotation. 

Sources:

(2019). Statewide Impact 2019 Spring Break BINGO Report. Food Hero. https://www.foodhero.org/sites/default/files/health-tools/2019_spring_break_bingo_statewide_final.pdf

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