- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: suzanne rauzon
- Editor: Ron Strochlic
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—known as SNAP nationally and CalFresh in California—provides food benefits to over 22 million low-income families in the US to supplement their grocery budget. New Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) research demonstrates that sending encouraging text messages to SNAP participants helps promote nutrition resources and stimulate positive feelings about the program. NPI researchers collaborated with the University of California, San Diego, Center for Community Health, to partner with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to send 5 monthly behavioral science-informed nutrition text messages to approximately 170,000 CalFresh participants. The text messages were sent in English and Spanish and provided information about the benefits of buying and consuming California-grown fruits and vegetables. Each text-message included a link to a website which provided information about selecting, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables, and budget-friendly recipes. Results highlighted that participants gained better knowledge on these subjects, as well as feeling good about participating in CalFresh and appreciating the program's efforts to help participants eat healthfully. Survey results demonstrated that 90% of respondents appreciated the text-messages. This research brief demonstrates that further communication efforts through text-messages from SNAP agencies can help program participants eat more healthfully and improve their views on SNAP. The brief was developed by NPI researchers Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic and Wendi Gosliner and Sena Karvas from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
- Author: Michael Hsu
Community nutrition and health advisor builds bridges across cultures in Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Madera counties
At a young age, Irene Padasas – UC Cooperative Extension community nutrition and health advisor for Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Madera counties – saw first-hand how environmental health conditions can impact a family's choices.
When she was in fourth grade, her parents moved their family from bustling Manila, capital of the Philippines, to a small town on a distant island. Her younger brother, who had been hospitalized at age 3 for a year due to complications from meningitis, had to re-learn how to walk and talk.
Padasas' mother hoped that leaving the more polluted urban environment would benefit his long road of rehabilitation. “The decision was made to ensure a better quality of life for my brother,” Padasas said. “So my parents decided to just move to the countryside.”
The family settled in a beach town in largely rural Aklan province, near the center of the Philippine archipelago.
“There are advantages living in a place like that, where you're close to nature; there's not much traffic; the community is very tight,” Padasas said. “You feel like you're part of this small community where everybody is looking after each other.”
Contributing to that sense of community – and cultivating close relationships to ensure the health and well-being of all – are just some of the reasons why Padasas chose her line of work in Cooperative Extension.
Padasas oversees the delivery of two federal nutrition programs in her region – CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. She develops, provides and evaluates Extension programs in partnership with the diverse populations of the Central Valley, including a variety of Latino, Mexican Indigenous and Asian communities.
Despite differences in culture and background, Padasas works to find common ground and build bridges – often through a joke and a laugh.
“Humor is such a big part of Filipino culture; with the challenges that I encountered in life, humor was so important in getting through and bouncing back,” she said. “That part of my culture is an important aspect of me to build relationships and genuine connections and introduce the work that we do; they don't see us as a ‘researcher from University of California,' they see us just like them, just like anybody else in the community.”
Growing up near both the beach and farmland in Aklan, Padasas feels an affinity for the agricultural landscapes and lifestyles in the San Joaquin Valley. She remembers feeding her family's chickens and pigs and playing among the neighbors' cows and water buffalo.
“I feel like whenever I drive to different places here in the Central Valley, it reminds me a lot of my childhood back in the day,” she said.
Nevertheless, Padasas misses the food in the Philippines – especially the seafood that she grew up eating, succulent prawns and enormous fish found nowhere in California.
“We would wait by the shore for whatever the fishermen would sell – it's really fresh fish, literally fresh from the boat,” she recalled.
Mealtimes were central in the childhood of Padasas and her siblings, who both live in the Philippines and help care for their parents; her brother is an engineer and her older sister is a teacher. Food was and remains a focal point for sharing and connecting, within their household and across the culture.
“When I was growing up, my parents made sure we were spending time as a family, eating together during dinner and sharing special meals on weekends,” Padasas said.
Chance encounter leads to an Extension career
Padasas returned to the Manila metro area for college, at the University of the Philippines Dilliman, where she earned a bachelor's degree in special education. After working as a special ed teacher for about seven years, she went to graduate school at Ateneo de Manila University for her master's in developmental psychology.
Originally intending to pursue a career as a child psychologist, Padasas said her path changed when she met Maria de Guzman, a University of Nebraska professor and Ateneo de Manila alumna, who returned to her alma mater to present her research on “yayas” – live-in caregivers for children in the Philippines.
Intrigued by that study, Padasas leaped at the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. with de Guzman at Nebraska, where she would write her doctoral dissertation on social capital – such as personal relationships and networks – as predictors of college success for underrepresented minority students.
It was also de Guzman, herself an Extension specialist, who guided Padasas on that career track.
“I knew at that time I wanted to work in Extension, but it was a vague concept to me because in the Philippines we don't have Extension as part of the university,” Padasas explained. “Dr. de Guzman was the one who really introduced me to Extension.”
During graduate school in Nebraska, Padasas gained valuable experience working with a diverse range of ethnic minorities and refugees, including Latinos, Filipinos, Yazidis and Congolese. She especially enjoyed working with children and teens – a favorite aspect of her work that continues to this day. Padasas said that, when given the opportunity to discuss her academic background, she mentions her educational experience to young people.
“I always make sure to talk about my work as a research scientist – to encourage these kids, especially those from underrepresented minority groups, to see themselves in my shoes, to show them that: ‘You could also become like me, a person of color, a researcher, and that's not an impossible path for you,'” Padasas said.
That academic track – and her entire life's journey – have prepared Padasas well for her current role, within an organization that spans the state of California and all its diverse communities.
“I think that's the beauty of the work that we do at UC ANR,” she said. “We are provided with so many opportunities to connect and to create impact for so many people across different populations.”/h3>/h3>
- Author: Shannon A Klisch
Today several members of the CalFresh at Farmers Market Working Group attended the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors' meeting to accept the proclamation of August 6th -12th 2023 as SLO County Farmers Market Week. Supervisor Arnold read the proclamation and the remaining supervisors remarked on the importance of local agriculture to our community and the important connection between farmers markets and food assistance programs like CalFresh, Market Match and WIC.
Thank you to the Board of Supervisors for taking the time to recognize the importance of farmers markets to our county culture, livelihood, and vitality. Several board members specifically highlighted their support for programs that promote equitable access to local and healthy food, including the CalFresh and Market Match programs which are available at markets across our county. (To find a market near you, visit FMFinder.org)
Our CalFresh at Farmers Markets work group mission is to increase the use of CalFresh benefits at local farmers markets in order to support equitable access to healthy food and support for local farmers. Our work group includes five farmers market associations, representing ten markets throughout the county that accept CalFresh and offer the nutrition incentive Market Match. Additional partners include UC Cooperative Extension, the SLO Food Bank, County Departments of Social Services and Public Health and the Promotores Collaborative. Since 2017, our work group has helped to bring in over $600,000 in CalFresh and Market Match at local farmers markets.
Yet we know there is more work to do. There are many county residents out there who are struggling to put food on the table and who could qualify for CalFresh but are not aware of it (visit GetCalFresh.org for more info). We know there are people who currently receive CalFresh/EBT or P-EBT benefits but do not know that they can use their benefits and even get more money for fruits and vegetables with Market Match at many of our local markets.
On behalf of our working group partners, I invite everyone to come out to a farmers market near you - from Paso to Arroyo Grande during Aug 6th-12th to enjoy your local bounty, try using your CalFresh EBT/P-EBT card, and get to know your community and your farmers.
Additionally, the SLO Food System Coalition will host a social event on Monday Aug 7th at the Baywood Farmers Market from 3-4:30. We invite you to join us to learn about the Food System Coalition and to support your local farmers and food operators.
Thank you to our Board of Supervisors for the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of our farmers markets and the great work they are doing to support food access in our county.
Where can you use your CalFresh or WIC benefits? Visit FMFinder.org to find a market near you.
How? To use your CalFresh/EBT or P-EBT card at participating markets, look for the Information or Market Manager booth and a friendly staff person will help walk you through the process. You will want to have an idea of how much money you are going to spend so you can ask them to swipe your card for a specific dollar amount which will be debited from your CalFresh account. In addition, many markets will provide an extra $10 or $15 in Market Match tokens that you can spend on fresh fruits or vegetables at the market.
RESOLUTION PROCLAIMING AUGUST 6-12. 2023, AS
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY FARMERS MARKET WEEK
WHEREAS San Luis Obispo County farmers markets support the health of local residents by providing access to healthful, fresh, delicious, and local foods and agricultural products, and
WHEREAS farmers markets support small-to-medium, new and beginning, and veteran agricultural producers so they can sell their local agricultural products, generating revenue that supports the sustainability of local farms and the economic vibrance of rural communities nationwide, and
WHEREAS most farmers markets in San Luis Obispo County currently accept one or more federal supplemental nutrition assistance programs such as CalFresh, WIC, and/or Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs as forms of payment, and many also offer additional market incentives to increase the purchasing power of community members with limited incomes, and
WHEREAS San Luis Obispo County encourages all county farmers markets to accept CalFresh and other federal nutrition program as payment so that local farmers and ranchers can expand their customer base and all residents can benefit from the diverse agricultural products produced in the county, and
WHEREAS farmers markets in San Luis Obispo County help foster community connectedness and resilience by bringing together neighbors and farmers, serving as a community gathering space, encouraging tourism, and playing a role in educating community members on our local food system, and
WHEREAS farmers markets directly facilitate the selling and purchasing of local fruits and vegetables and other agricultural products and thus support the Vision of the County of San Luis Obispo as a healthy and prosperous community, and
WHEREAS San Luis Obispo County recognizes the importance of expanding agricultural marketing opportunities that assist and encourage the next generation of farmers and ranchers; building community connections and health through direct farm to consumer encounters in our communities; and supporting access to farmers markets for people on limited incomes through increasing the number of markets that accept CalFresh and other food benefit programs;
NOW, THEREFORE, to further awareness of farmers markets' contributions to San Luis Obispo County life, we, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, do hereby proclaim the week of August 6-12, 2023, as San Luis Obispo County Farmers Market Week, in conjunction with the observance of National Farmers Market Week. I call upon San Luis Obispo County residents to celebrate farmers markets with appropriate observance and activities.
The California Nutrition Incentive Program, the GusNIP in California, provides CalFresh, known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, shoppers with a dollar-for-dollar match when using their EBT card to purchase California-grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. The program recently expanded in pilot form to a few grocery stores. A new evaluation report presents detailed findings from interviews conducted by University of California Nutrition Policy Institute researchers with CalFresh shoppers from a sample of farmers' markets and other retail outlets newly implementing CNIP. Researchers explored CalFresh shoppers' experiences using CNIP; CNIP's impact on CalFresh shoppers' food purchasing decisions; and CalFresh shoppers' general feelings about the program. As one participant said, “I would say that this is probably one of the most important things that [policy makers] can do as far as helping to bring access to lower income people to fresh fruits and vegetables.” In summary, CalFresh shoppers across different market types (farmers markets and grocery stores) had positive experiences with CNIP. Participants described the program as helpful, noting that CNIP allowed them to buy more fruits and vegetables, purchase more CA-grown and organic fruits and vegetables and widen their selection of fresh produce. Participants from all market types were supportive of the program continuing and expanding to grocery stores as a means of increasing access to fruits and vegetables for CalFresh participants.
Virtually all San Diego County CalFresh participants (known as SNAP nationwide) have been receiving monthly text messages in multiple languages encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables and directing them to a dedicated multilingual website with more information. The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency may be the first SNAP administering agency in the US to use text messages to share nutrition information and promote a healthy diet. This effort began in 2020 in partnership with the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute and the UC San Diego Center for Community Health. Building on previous survey results, UC researchers conducted focus groups in English and Spanish with text message recipients to elicit their experience of the messages. CalFresh participants reported overwhelmingly positive perceptions of the effort, including increased fruit and vegetable intake, trying unfamiliar produce items, improved perceptions of CalFresh, and feelings that the agency cares about their health and well-being. Participants want the effort to continue with more frequent messages. Text messaging participants is a relatively low-cost approach that SNAP agencies can use to encourage diet improvement, optimization of food dollars, and to enhance perceptions of and experiences with SNAP. Focus group results were published in the journal Nutrients by Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic, and Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute, Blanca Melendrez and Shanna Wright from the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, and Hao Teng from Teachers College, Colombia University.