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SNAP-ing It Up at the Association Conference

By Renee Obrecht-Como, Director of Operations — Health and Nutrition

Each of us has professional associations related to our work, and SNAP-Ed is no exception. The Association of SNAP Nutrition Education Administrators held its annual conference the week of February 8 in Arlington, VA. Minnesota had strong representation: seven Extension administrators (Karen Shirer, Trish Olson, Mary Marczak, Mary Caskey, Margaret Haggenmiller, Ryan Johnson, and me) and the Department of Human Services’ Food and Nutrition Programs Supervisor Sarah Aughenbaugh.

The following are my top three highlights from the 2016 conference, with plenty of links you can follow to learn more.

Telling Our Story

Kudos to Mary, Ryan, and Magaret!
SNAP-Ed staff and educators use various forms of communication with a range of stakeholders to tell SNAP-Ed’s story. Those stakeholders include our federal congressional delegation. The conference presented an opportunity for Capitol Hill visits, and Minnesota SNAP-Ed was well represented by Ryan Johnson, Mary Caskey, and Margaret Haggenmiller of FD. Their visit at Rep. Collin Peterson’s office was even reported in the congressman’s newsletter!

But visits to congressional offices in Washington are only one approach to telling our story. As conference speakers emphasized, educating elected officials and other policymakers about our work is something that is not limited to the Hill. The broader question is, How can we in FD reach out on a regular basis to local and national officeholders and other policymakers through social media, invitations to attend programming, and other means?

Demonstrating Results and Providing National Toolkits

As a sprawling nationwide program that is responsive to local contexts and needs, SNAP-Ed is challenged to demonstrate collective impact — or even to find common measurements. Enter Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE), an entity formed to strengthen the evidence base for both SNAP-Ed and EFNEP initiatives. In addition, a national framework of indicators and evaluation resources is being rolled out. (The PowerPoint shared at the conference is available here: SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework: The Past, Present, and Future). The framework uses 51 indicators to categorize SNAP-Ed activities, and includes associated measurements, methods to determine reach, and evaluation tools.

I was particularly interested in how the authors designed the framework to deal with the dynamic tension between attribution and contribution in assessing SNAP-Ed results. We can’t always demonstrate impact as directly attributable to our efforts, especially when working at multiple levels and with coalitions. Handling these situations by assigning some degree of contribution to an outcome is often most realistic and compelling, and can be applied to work across FD.

Social Marketing

Social marketing will be part of Minnesota’s SNAP-Ed work moving forward, and presentations on the FNV campaign (promoting fruits ‘n vegetables — get it?) and evaluation of three social marketing campaigns in Maine, Michigan, and Louisiana provided plenty of inspiration. The FNV campaign uses social marketing techniques commonly used by major food companies to promote processed foods to promote fresh fruits and vegetables instead — techniques such as celebrity endorsements.

Called it! Congratulations to Cameron Newton on the big win, and good luck in the big game. You're the #FNV #MVP, always and forever. #panthersnation #camnewton #superbowl #nfl #mvp #panthers
Posted by Team FNV on Saturday, February 6, 2016

The social marketing evaluation session featured these highlights:
  • Planning and delivery — Presenters noted the importance of engaging educators, community partners, and participants from the beginning of any initiative in order to obtain data useful to designing program improvements.
  • Reach — This measurement shows the extent to which intended audiences receive messages. Presenters also discussed the importance of acknowledging barriers and challenges people face when measuring program reach and effectiveness. Barriers such as food insecurity and lack of time hinder many people’s ability to make changes.
  • Readiness to change — Data from the three states’ social marketing campaigns shows that people most “ready” to modify their eating and exercise habits are under 65, have children at home, enjoy food security, and already consider themselves in good or excellent health.
Last but certainly not least, fellowship also marked this conference, as always.

Back row, L to R: Karen Shirer, Mary Marczak, Mary Caskey
Front row, L to R: Trish Olson, Margaret Haggenmiller, Ryan Johnson

We connected with colleagues from across the country, both long-standing friends and new ones. Our conversations confirmed that we in FD are innovators in that we have integrated work on policies, systems, and environments with direct education. That doesn’t mean we can’t do more, however, and we learned a great deal from others at the conference.

Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation, pulled together more comprehensive key points from the conference; they are being shared at staff meetings and through the Family Development portal: ASNNA Key Points.

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