COVID-19 forced California Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) to suddenly shift planned strategies to meet SNAP-eligible population needs. K-12 schools, important SNAP-Ed partners for reaching children and families, were profoundly affected. Most (77%) local health departments (LHDs) reported they were unable to accomplish previously planned activities at school sites in 2020.
To understand pandemic-related changes to school-based SNAP-Ed and identify areas of opportunity.
Study Design, Settings, Participants
We conducted secondary mixed-methods analyses of California LHDs’ school-based SNAP-Ed activity and needs assessment data from fiscal years 2020-2021.
Outcomes include number and type of SNAP-Ed programs that were halted or newly implemented, number of participants reached, policies, systems, and environmental change strategies (PSEs) adopted, new methods of education delivery, and extent to which schools implemented nutrition and physical activity (Nut-PA) best practices. Qualitative analysis examined COVID-19-related barriers and facilitators to SNAP-Ed implementation.
In 2020, 270 PSE interventions were initiated in schools; 21% were discontinued and 12% were created in response to COVID. New opportunities included using school meal distributions to provide free groceries, home gardening kits, and brief face-to-face nutrition education. Many LHDs transitioned to virtual Nut-PA education, increasing SNAP-Ed participant reach. In Fall 2020, as schools adjusted to alternative learning models, school-level assessments of Nut-PA practices indicated the most common area of opportunity was nutrition education. Over 75% of schools reported that PSE strategies requiring on-site/in-person implementation, such as improving lunchroom facilities, were not feasible. Facilitators of SNAP-Ed implementation included community support and strong partnerships between schools, community-based organizations, and SNAP-Ed implementing agencies; barriers included regulations and staff turnover.
SNAP-Ed programs nationwide can continue to serve SNAP-eligible children and families during crises like COVID-19 by partnering with schools and other community organizations. These partners identified the nutrition and physical activity needs of a community and the best practices to address them.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2022.04.182.
Appendix. SUPPLEMENTARY DATA
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