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Study Shows Positive Effects of SNAP-Ed Program on Youth

Misty Blue, Graduate Research Assistant

During the school-year 2012-2013, the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development conducted an impact evaluation to assess the effect of SNAP-Ed programming on youth attitudes and behavior regarding healthy eating and physical activity. A total of 22 schools from across Minnesota, 396 third-graders and their parents or other caregivers participated in this longitudinal group-randomized trial. Participating youth attended seven nutrition education sessions led by a trained SNAP-Ed educator.

The FD evaluation team worked with SNAP-Ed educators, University faculty, Extension educators, and evaluators and content experts from within the University and across the country to design and implement the impact evaluation. The evaluation results are encouraging; they show that SNAP-Ed education increases youth’s:
  • Willingness to try new vegetables, as reported by parents and youth. 
  • Vegetable intake immediately following the program.* 
  • Fruit intake a year after the program. 
The results also included ripple effects observed by other family members. Parents and other caregivers reported positive signs of change among youth not just around healthy eating, but other healthy behaviors; signs included conversations about health, participation in community gardens and bike coops, help with meal preparation, and more.

The study also helped the evaluation team understand important details about program implementation. Results indicated that schools whose students had higher vegetable intake had two things in common:
  1. The SNAP-Ed educator took steps to insure student engagement. 
  2. All parts of the curriculum were implemented. 
Knowing that these two factors greatly influenced how the students put the lessons into practice has implications for the delivery of our education.

Finally, working at the school level magnified the positive effects of the SNAP-Ed programming. This finding has implications for our work at all levels of the Spectrum of Prevention.

The evaluation team is sharing results of this study with community partners, participating families, funders, and academic forums. In addition, the Health and Nutrition team as a whole is encouraging conversations about how these results might inform our future community nutrition education work.

The results of this evaluation comprise an important contribution to efforts to understand the lasting effects of SNAP-Ed programming — all the more so because few studies like this have been conducted nationally. We on the evaluation team are grateful to everyone who assisted with this study.

*Vegetable intake then decreased three months after the program.

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