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Extension SNAP-Ed Program Shines during Federal Management Evaluation

By Mary Marczak, Director, Urban Family Development and Evaluation, and Patricia Olson, Director of Programs

It’s official: We are awesome!

Well…the actual description in the written summary of the Federal Management Evaluation (ME) review of Family Development’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) is more reserved, yet positive:
During the ME, several noteworthy initiatives were observed. These noteworthy initiatives included the number and reach of community partnerships, ethnic diversity of nutrition educators and program materials, and Tribal Organization engagement model. The review resulted in no findings needing corrective action.

We still say: That's awesome!

We heard so many enthusiastic comments from the two federal reviewers who spent three days in Minnesota this December. They reviewed Minnesota’s overall SNAP-Ed program, including Minnesota Department of Human Services, the state agency that administers the program, and University of Minnesota Extension, the key implementing agency.

What They Said

After an entrance interview with Extension SNAP-Ed leadership team and visiting three sites (see table below), one of the federal reviewers commented: “We only have good things to say. We don’t have any concerns.” The other reviewer said, “I am very impressed with the work here.”

Here are other notes we jotted down from the reviewers comments:

Your state is best practice in terms of seamless integration of direct education and PSE.
We've worked hard to expand our focus and integrate policy, systems, and environmental work using the Spectrum of Prevention, and it's paid off!

Evidence of excellent teaching, great classroom management, and connecting participants to external resources. You also implement culturally and age-appropriate interventions.
Reviewers referred specifically to the opening check-ins and discussions at an alternative learning center with youth and the end of class resource discussion at a senior housing site.

The health equity lens being used here is excellent.
The reviewer noted work with a community partner, Melvin Giles and the Frogtown and Rondo garden alliance; our leadership role with the Minnesota Food Charter; our collective impact work with Minnesota’s food networks; and our multi-state collaboration to build capacity using the Spectrum of Prevention framework.

There is good things going on around culturally appropriate interventions, including staff diversity, making cultural adaptations of curriculum. ... You are intentionally working with the most diverse populations we have seen.
We feel strongly that these comments apply not just to SNAP-Ed, but to all FD units. Every FD program has equitable commitments to PSE, excellent teaching, healthy equity, and staff and participant diversity. Of course, every evaluation turns up something to work on. Given our excellence, the reviewers suggested we share our processes, resources, and results nationally. They even offered us help to do so!

Gratitude and Reflection

A national review takes much planning and preparation. Many thanks to all staff — too many to name — who responded to requests for assistance and information. Special thank-yous to those who made the site visits a reality, and to Jeanne Laqua and Mark Schultz for organizing large binders of documentation material in preparation for the ME. This kind of review also gives us a chance to reflect on the work we’ve done. And such a positive review gives us the chance to celebrate our successes and return to our work we renewed vigor.

Editor's note: You can view the full ME report here: About Our Work: Health and Nutrition Information (sign-in required).
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