By Dietetic Intern: Amber Wall
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This saying came to mind after completing my rotation with the USDA’s program manager, Janice Schneider, MS, RDN, FAND. The SNAP Program serves its participants by not solely providing them with funds to purchase food but also encouraging the establishment of healthy habits through SNAP-Ed. The information provided is truly a valuable resource. It opens doors to life-long health improvements and promotes generational successes. Through the material created, I was able to contribute to SNAP-Ed’s mission and help provide resources that could impact the future.
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This federally funded program provides money via EBT card to assist low-income individuals and families with getting groceries. SNAP-Ed stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education. This program is dedicated to the mission of “implement[ing] a nutrition education and obesity prevention program for eligible individuals that promotes healthy food choices and physical activity consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans”. This rotation was dedicated to researching and preparing materials to be utilized by SNAP-eligible participants.
I was assigned multiple tasks during this rotation. The tasks consisted of creating electronic bulletins for their 176,000+ subscribers, creating two months of tweets for their Twitter account, recreating recipes, taking photos for their site, and more. While the focus on knowing your audience was a very important element in creating resources, a larger picture was at play. I was creating material that could influence lifestyle choices and thus make a positive impact on health outcomes. While SNAP benefits provide funds to its participants to utilize at the grocery store, SNAP-Ed can influence what is being bought at the store. SNAP-Ed caters to the well-being of the participants before, during, and after the benefit funds are used.
The SNAP-Ed program provides recipes, training, videos, and nutritional information to complement the given funds. I attended a webinar during Native American Heritage month where I learned about some of the tribe’s cultures and traditions. I was able to hear the challenges and disparities amongst this population and how SNAP and SNAP-Ed have provided nutrition care and resources to those groups. This experience reinforced my belief that dietitians have a responsibility to investigate not only current nutritional needs but also how those needs are met prior to and after nutrition care is provided.
Another task I was given was creating the E-bulletin for their email subscribers. The purpose of the E-bulletin is to provide information in a condensed format. Topics could vary from seasonal produce, food safety, and physical activity among other things. E-bulletins create shortcuts to direct subscribers to topics of interest on the SNAP-Ed Connection website. E-bulletins are also “food for thought”, consisting of tips to help members when it comes to changing nutrition and physical activity behaviors. While working on E-bulletins, I used pictures to concisely provide as much information as possible. I created eye-catching images that provided information like this image below:
The picture can be absorbed within seconds and displays quick nutrition information that may influence participants to add more fruits and vegetables to their shopping carts. It provided an example of what the vegetables look like to help the participant identify these foods when shopping in the future. These types of infographics were usually accompanied by written information on how to use the food in recipes or as part of a healthy lifestyle. SNAP and SNAP-Ed are not only increasing nutritional security, but they are also improving the diet quality of their participants.
Twitter is another platform where participants can make quick connections to helpful health information. I created tweets and a brief seasonal infographic that would potentially reach a different audience on this social media platform. The tweets consisted of quick teasers to encourage exploration of the SNAP-Ed site. The infographic I created on a winter vegetable was a fun way to grab the viewer’s attention by using wordplay while linking to a source on how to use it in meals and recipes.
My favorite task was making and photographing the food recipes for the USDA’s “My Plate Kitchen” online page. The recipes included on the site are healthy and budget-friendly. So, SNAP-Ed bridges the gap by providing nourishing recipes that are quick and affordable. The recipes I recreated included the Breakfast Parfait, Cabbage Stir Fry, and Chili Bean Dip. In addition to utilizing the SNAP funds and providing resources on how to prepare affordable nourishing meals, the recipes have the potential to become a generational staple meal. SNAP-Ed encourages including children in the kitchen when preparing meals. Including children in the cooking process helps establish healthy habits for the entire household.
The tasks I completed while rotating with the SNAP-Ed Connection allowed me to create content that is valuable and educational. Being part of such a hardworking and compassionate team made the experience even more rewarding. SNAP and SNAP-Ed are a powerful duo that truly embody the “Teach a man to fish” phrase. They could have stopped at just providing the funds to purchase food, but they have taken it a step further to implement a program that influences healthy lifestyle change. As a future registered dietitian, I now know the importance of not just evaluating and solving immediate problems, but also looking further into a person’s life and background to provide them with relevant resources that will help them establish and sustain healthy habits.