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The State of Metro Health and Nutrition Programs

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation. 
Margaret Haggenmiller, Associate Program Director — SNAP-Ed. 
Cassie Silveira, Extension Educator — EFNEP

With renewed energy around Urban Family Development programs, we made great strides in 2015 to enhance our capacity to be active partners in community change. We started to address two goals in particular: to fully staff our two largest programs in the metro, including SNAP-Ed and EFNEP, and to better integrate our efforts across programs. Margaret Haggenmiller and Cassie Silveira give updates on their respective programs.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed)

The SNAP Education program in the metro now has a full staff of SNAP-Ed educators: 18 SNAP-Ed Educators spanning 8 counties. We are able to offer classes in four languages other than English: Spanish, Oromo, Somali, and Hmong. We have been searching for three regional coordinators. We made offers to two candidates and they have accepted, and we are still recruiting for one more spot.

Educators have been busy building the SNAP-Ed program with many different agencies in the metro. Below you will find a sampling of the feedback we have received from our partner agencies:

“The SNAP-Ed educator is an outstanding, a well-informed instructor. She is able to adapt to the multi-age groups she works with. I am VERY pleased with her instruction!”

“Our SNAP-Ed educator was amazing! She had great ideas and seemed to make everyone feel included and welcome. Our group can be challenging and she was very positive, which overflowed to the participants. We sincerely appreciate having SNAP-Ed coming each week, the participants asked about the class every week to make sure she was coming back. They talked about how good the food was and that it was easy to make. We had fathers in the group that talked about making healthier food for their kids and many of the participants began choosing wheat bread over white bread. Also, she presented a nice variety of different foods. Thank you so much!!! We would love to have this class again for a future group of participants.”

“Classes at VEAP have been consistently successful, largely due to the SNAP-Ed educator’s preparation and her ability to connect effectively with all participants.”

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

Minnesota EFNEP has seen tremendous changes in 2015. The program added a second coordinator in March, a long-time community nutrition educator (CNE) who was ready for the new responsibility of supervision and could also provide support to her colleagues with her own experience as an educator. This was followed by several intense rounds of hiring — nine new CNEs joined our program between April and November! With the addition of Dakota County as a service area, all 13 CNEs will work regionally in the metro counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, and Anoka.

Our CNEs bring a range of experience with them. Some are language-specific to effectively target cultural communities. Others bring their knowledge of community resources and assets, as well as lived experience to strengthen the program. Our mission remains constant — we work to ensure that low-income Minnesota families, particularly those with children, and school-aged youth are exposed to nutrition education and cooking skills that positively impact their health.

We continue to look for new and unique ways to deliver our program that will both keep the essence of the program intact and also honor the changing needs of our participants. Along with our sister program SNAP-Ed, we work to ensure that all eligible people have access to quality nutrition education, as well as successfully address the barriers and challenges that might hinder them from being fully engaged in their health.

We have also added two additional Extension educators in Health and Nutrition to the metro area, bringing the total to three EEs. We are excited about the possibilities in 2016. Now that we are fully staffed with amazing nutrition educators, supervisors, and Extension educators, we will focus on greater integration and innovation to better meet the needs of our participants!

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