Friday, June 26, 2015

SNAP Education in the District of Columbia

By Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord

SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, Chef Herb Holden, teaches students about growing food at the UDC Research Farm.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) at the District of Columbia provides education programs, behavior-change initiatives, and social marketing campaigns designed for individuals receiving or eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed programs seek to increase healthy food and active lifestyle choices among District residents. The University of the District of Columbia implements the SNAP-Ed program throughout the District through the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH), a landgrant program housed under the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES).

CNDH conducts programs with a variety of age groups, going to daycare centers and schools, health fairs and gerontology programs. Each month, different topics are covered that introduce participants to healthy food using all the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  Using the senses method and instilling an understanding of where food comes from, youth participants will more likely want to eat it again.

In one example, students from Seaton Elementary School’s Garden Program celebrated the end of the year with a Make Your Own Salad party. This fun event was suggested by one of the program’s enthusiastic participants and enjoyed by all.  Having attended weekly nutrition education and food demonstrations since February, the students were excited to share their knowledge of fruits and vegetables.
Chef Herb and students from the Faunteroy Community Enrichment Center check on vegetables they planted.
Chef Herb and students from the Faunteroy Community Enrichment Center check on vegetables they planted.
After a final nutrition session highlighting the important of salads, they shared a healthy salad snack together. With lettuce, kale and other greens (harvested from the Seaton garden) as the salad base, different items were added: cherry tomatoes, chick peas, raisins, bell peppers, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms. It was great to have them be able to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of their labor.

Being the country’s only urban landgrant, UDC is uniquely situated to educate youth about the food system and how their food is grown. The Urban Food Production Program is a half-day workshop where students from D.C. public, charter and private schools visit Muirkirk Research Farm to participate in experiential learning demonstrations and hands-on activities about urban farming and its benefits. The students learn about different farming concepts through three activity stations: aquaponics, soil and compost & planting.

The program is a CAUSES interdisciplinary collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Development, the Center for 4-H and Youth Development, the CNDH and the Center for Urban Agriculture, making it a perfect fit for the SNAP-Ed program. 

Chef Herb Holden, a SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, teaches part of the program, linking how food is prepared with how food is grown.Chef Holden also demonstrates the preparation of vegetables and fruits grown on the farm and allows students to taste the dish and provide the students with the recipe to take home to prepare at home with their family.
Chef Herb prepares a healthy fresh pumpkin recipe  for schoolchildren. 
The program will consist of four more workshops in June and July. This is an important first step in teaching local DC students about where their food comes from and creating a local food system in the District. For more information, contact Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord at (202) 274-7125.

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