- (Strategic Initiative) Healthy Families and Communities
A social media campaign aims to improve health of residents at low-income housing sites by encouraging vegetable intake through container gardening
In the U.S., vegetable intake is lowest among adults with low income. Eating the recommended daily amount of vegetables is important for overall health. Gardening has a role in promoting vegetable consumption. CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California Cooperative Extension (CFHL, UCCE) Butte Cluster and UC Master Gardeners, kicked off their second annual “Great Tomato Challenge” in 2022, a social media contest for Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP).CHIP is a non-profit corporation that serves Butte, Glenn, Yuba and Colusa Counties by assisting low-income residents with quality, affordable housing. The goal of the “Great Tomato Challenge” event is to promote container gardening at apartment complexes through a workshop and social media contest.
How UC Delivers
The 1.5 hour Fresh from the Garden curriculum workshops took place at 5 CHIP sites, having been advertised in English, Spanish, and Hmong language flyers. Over 40 adults learned how to harvest, store, and prepare fresh tomatoes. Those who opted to sign up for the social media challenge received a tomato plant and agreed to submit photos, drawings, and recipes accessed on the CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster Facebook page.
UC Master Gardeners partnered with CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster to provide Facebook Live sessions to answer any questions participants had about growing their tomato plant. CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster Educators translated questions and answers into Spanish and Hmong.
Three winners were selected from the 36 contestants from the following categories: best photo of you and your tomato plant; best tomato drawing; and best recipe photo. Winners received a colander, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, and a jar of locally-sourced pasta sauce.
Eighteen participants completed an "Intent to Change" Survey for the workshop. Thirty-eight percent reported that they would: “eat more than 1 kind of vegetable each day more often within the next week.” One participant wrote “This workshop helps my family to be healthier.” Gardening has a role in promoting greater vegetable intake and variety among families with low income which improves overall health.
CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Butte Cluster will continue this challenge annually and is considering starting an additional annual challenge, using the same model, for a cool-season vegetable such as beets.
UCCE partners with a school site to promote health and wellness and develop student leaders. As a result of the program, 92% of students reported gaining skills in teaching others.
Studies show that school gardens support student health through increased physical activity, increased consumption of healthy foods, and decreased body mass index. School gardens are also associated with positive emotions and social interactions. Additionally, school gardens have the potential to improve students' leadership skills and teamwork abilities. CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE (CFHL,UCCE) in Santa Barbara County partners with schools to gather stakeholders, create plans, fundraise, and build, maintain and teach in school gardens. One partnering school, Hapgood Elementary, has a flourishing garden that has been expanded and maintained over several years.
How UC Delivers
As COVID-19 restrictions at schools began to ease, UCCE garden nutrition educator Abbi Marrs reached out to the student leadership class to see if there was interest in developing leadership skills related to nutrition and food production in their school garden. Over 30 student leaders expressed interest in learning more about the garden. With the support of the school administration, UCCE staff met with the students to provide support and training related to growing food, composting, garden maintenance, and teaching in the garden. Throughout these trainings, UCCE staff worked with the youth to make decisions related to what they wanted to do with their new skills to support the garden. One group decided to focus on building more awareness of their garden by providing school garden tours. Another group decided to focus on supporting school and family health by providing garden enhanced nutrition education lessons in the garden.
UCCE staff supported youth by facilitating school garden training, helping write scripts for the garden tours, training in Teams With Intergenerational Support (TWIGS) curriculum, and practicing presentations. On April 15th, 2022, 26 youth delivered a garden tour to other youth, teachers, families, and community members. The mayor and city staff were invited to attend, and youth had the opportunity to share their garden and how it impacts their learning and health. In addition, 10 lessons were taught to 211 students in grades TK-6th.
Additionally, eight student leaders shared their garden experience while presenting at the 2022 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in September. Student leaders worked with UCCE staff to develop a presentation focused on the responsibilities of a garden student leader. The topics included: how the garden youth leader program started, garden jobs, composting, working with hydroponic towers, working with food service staff, safe harvesting practices, and how to teach garden-based and nutrition education lessons. During the presentation, student leaders shared their favorite parts of working in the garden. Some answers included teaching younger students about the garden, learning healthy recipes, and learning more about gardening in general. Student leaders then delivered a condensed version of the “Pest or Pal” lesson from the TWIGS garden-based curriculum to over fifty attendees. The presentation concluded with question-and-answers and students answered questions such as the biggest challenge they faced working in the garden, their favorite foods to grow, and how working in the garden has helped develop them as leaders.
Youth leaders completed the Youth Leader Retrospective survey at the end of the school year (n=26). This survey asks participants to reflect on changes they see in themselves due to their participation in programming. Questions ask about behavior changes related to safely preparing and cooking healthy foods, leadership skills gained, and support received from adult facilitators.
For healthy behaviors, students agreed or strongly agreed, due to their participation in the UCCE Student Leaders Garden Committee: I wash my hands frequently (100%), my family has purchased healthier foods (92%), my family has prepared healthier foods (88%).
For leadership skills, youth retrospectively rated their ability before and after the program using a 4-point scale from No Ability to Excellent Ability. Improvement was observed in all leadership skills assessed, including the ability to work as a team member, speak before a group, teach others, and plan programs. The biggest change was observed in their ability to teach others. Prior to the program, only 1 (4%) youth reported an Excellent Ability, and 11 (42%) reported Good Ability. After the program, 11 (42%) rated themselves as having Excellent Ability and 13 (50%) rated themselves Good Ability. In addition, 0 youth rated themselves as No Ability after participating in the program, compared to 5 (19%) before the program.
For program support, youth agreed or strongly agreed with the following statements: There were dedicated adults who supported me as a youth leader (100%), I received ongoing training and support throughout the program (88%), The program made sure I had everything I needed to be successful as a youth leader (100%).
As a result of the garden tours, the Lompoc City Council adopted a school garden resolution that states the importance of school gardens to student health and the commitment of the city to support school gardens. Youth attended the council meeting and their school was gifted an apricot tree and the principal hosted a tree planting ceremony with students and family members. UCCE plans to work with student leaders next school year with 6th grade student leaders taking on the responsibility of training 5th grade student leaders. This peer to peer model will create a solid foundation for garden program sustainability for years to come. Lastly, when asked about the student youth leader the city mayor stated:
“I am so impressed with the students and the garden at Hapgood! Their passion for growing food was evident as the young scholars taught us about composting and what each part of the plant contributes to in its growth. I want to thank the UC CalFresh Education Program, all the parents and volunteers as well as the staff at Hapgood for supporting such an awesome learning experience in how our food grows.”- Lompoc City Mayor
Through this partnership, CFHL, UCCE in Santa Barbara contributes to improved food security and health for the local community, and guides students to become effective public leaders.
CFHL, UC partners with San Mateo and Santa Clara county schools to increase structured and non-competitive physical activity opportunities for school-aged youth through the CATCH curriculum, contributing to improved community health and wellness.
Since students returned to school and in-person learning, school administration witnessed a decline in student's social skills and physical activity abilities from previous years. Principals and teachers expressed concern that anti-social behavior was prevalent and believed it was a result of the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One principal in Santa Clara County shared an observation that “students were having a difficult time making friends” and “many students would spend time by themselves, rather than engage with classmates.” School staff also noted that students were not getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily play during the pandemic.
In Spring 2022, CFHL, UCCE educators supported schools as they were dealing with low school staffing levels and students struggling to re-enter the classroom. Re-learning some of the skills associated with interacting and socializing, and then ramping up physical activity in the post-pandemic world was needed.
How UC Delivers
After hearing about the challenges facing schools, CFHL, UCCE developed an active recess program to help schools address supervision and staffing issues while engaging students in physical activity. School administrators and teachers were excited about this program and hoped structured recess games would engage their students physically and help them learn to interact cooperatively.
CFHL, UCCE educators attended school recess regularly, on a once- or twice-a-week basis, bringing CATCH games with them. At some elementary schools, CFHL educators reached all of the students with their games, from kindergarten to 5th grade, and at some school sites, educators focused on providing activities to just Kindergarteners. Games helped build a range of skills, from locomotor skills and coordinating with others, to developing balance, catching, and hand-eye coordination skills.
In San Mateo and Santa Clara County, CFHL, UCCE educators supported recess CATCH games with an array of equipment, from hula hoops, beanbags, frisbees, polyspots, scarves, and more! Students were welcome to join in for games such as dragon's tail, fruit salad, scarf and bean bag toss. Students were welcome to use the supplies to enrich their own play and it was common to see students building castles with cones, and juggling. These games were welcomed by the students, from K-5, with cooperation, laughter, and the request that CFHL, UCCE educators come the next day to play some more! This feeling was expressed by the Sunshine Gardens Principal, who stated “I only wish they were here every day!"
The principal at Sunshine Gardens went further to say that the games “allowed students to build skills and confidence and set goals”. At Castlemont Elementary,the principal saw that “more students were actively engaged”, a sentiment that was echoed at Pescadero Elementary, where a school leader noted that students were much more active during recess after the implementation of the active recess project.
CFHL, UCCE Educators collected active recess evaluations to document CATCH adoption across four sites, reaching 795 students. Principals across sites reflected that the games were more cooperative than competitive, which encouraged more participation. The principal at Bowers Elementary also liked that the games “were structured so that they helped develop cooperative skills”. Pescadero leadership saw CFHL, UCCE involvement as both helpful and important, and all four participating schools requested continuing active recess work in the 2022-23 school year.
Recess interventions have been shown to increase the amount of physical activity children get and when children regularly engage in physical activity, it can lead to improved cognition, fitness, heart health and mental health outcomes. Teachers and staff remarked on the value of CFHL, UCCE bringing physically and mentally engaging collaborative games and activities to their students. CFHL, UCCE educators are looking forward to the opportunity to continue supporting active recess in the 2022-23 school year. Educators and School sites are inspired to build on last year's success and there is a plan to provide CATCH trainings to teachers and staff to support additional physical activity policy, systems, and environmental changes in the new school year. In this way, CFHL UCCE programming contributes to UC ANR's public value of Healthy People and Communities.
Partnering to support nutrition incentive programs at farmers markets provides increased access to healthy food for CalFresh recipients and generated over $380,000 in revenue for local farms.
For low-income community members, CalFresh/SNAP incentive programs can increase their purchasing power, help reduce hunger, and improve nutrition. Farmers market nutrition incentives provide economic benefits to local farmers and communities, reduce food miles traveled, and can increase access to healthy food in low-income communities. In San Luis Obispo County eight year-round farmers markets accept CalFresh and offer the market incentive Market Match. However, these programs are underutilized, and many low-income shoppers are unaware or uncertain about where and how to use their CalFresh card.
How UC Delivers
To increase access to farmers market incentive programs and address barriers, UC staff convened partners through the EBT at Farmers Markets working group of the San Luis Obispo Food System Coalition. The work group includes partners from multiple sectors, including agriculture, government, private industry, and community-based organizations. The purpose of the work group is to increase the use of CalFresh at farmers markets to 1) create equitable access to healthy food and 2) support for local farmers. Through this work group, partners have collaborated to increase the visibility of farmers market incentives through social media, text messaging, materials distribution to local client-serving organizations, press releases, paid advertisements, and promotion at local food bank distributions and farmers markets.
Key work group partner representatives (n=6) were surveyed in September 2021 using the Wilder Collaboration Factors Survey. This survey includes 44 evidence-based items for collaboratives. Strengths are indicated by an average score of 4.0 to 5.0, while areas needing attention are 3.9 or lower. Strengths reported by respondents included: skilled leadership (4.3), unique purpose (4.3), mutual respect and trust (4.4). Weaknesses and areas of growth included: adequate funds (2.7) and time (2.7), and having all the organizations that we need as members of the group (3.2).
To address some of the issues related to time and resources, the work group applied for and received $30,000 in funding from the Danone Foundation to pilot a Farmers Market Navigator program to increase access to farmers market incentives among Hispanic and Latino customers who use CalFresh.
Since 2017, when UC started convening the EBT at Farmers Markets work group, we have seen a 171% increase in CalFresh and Market Match redemption. Research has shown that access to fruits and vegetables supports healthy eating behaviors and improved health outcomes. Additionally, these purchases have generated a total of $386,000 in direct income to local farmers and farmers markets.
In addition, the work group has supported two additional markets in launching their Market Match program and has advocated for and achieved a regional standard incentive amount of $15 from Paso Robles in northern San Luis Obispo County to Lompoc in northern Santa Barbara County. This regional standard simplifies communication to low-income clientele and ensures a meaningful and standardized food budget when clients shop at local farmers markets.
Increasing access to local fruits and vegetables supports UC ANR's public values of safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians and promoting healthy people and communities.
Our favorite quote:
“This work group really helped our market to be accepted into the Market Match program. I think without the visibility and partnership that this work group provided, we would not have been considered for Market Match. So you all should really feel good about that and thank you.”
– Farmers market manager and work group partner/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
Making Every Dollar Count participants reported running out of food before the end of the month significantly less often, suggesting an improvement in their families' food security.
According to the California Association of Food Banks, one in five Californians struggled with food insecurity during 2020. Making Every Dollar Count (MEDC) is a curriculum that teaches adults food buying/budgeting skills and food and resource management techniques that can support limited-resource families. The primary tool for evaluating this curriculum is the MEDC retrospective survey. This survey primarily collects participant knowledge, limiting the program outcomes collected particularly regarding potential improvements in food resource management (FRM) behaviors. In addition, FRM behaviors are a key focus area identified in California's CalFresh Healthy Living statewide goals and objectives for FFY 2020-22.
How UC Delivers
During evaluation planning for FFY 2019-20, the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC State Office (CFHL, UC State Office) asked San Joaquin County if there was a possibility to transition from the MEDC survey to the Plan, Shop, Save and Cook (PSSC) evaluation tool to better capture food resource management (FRM) behavioral data. As a result, the CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE San Joaquin team asked a long-time partner, First 5 of San Joaquin, if their MEDC-in-home educators could adopt the new survey. Given this new opportunity to capture FRM behavioral outcomes, First 5 approved the transition based on the recommendation of the CFHL, UC State Office in January 2020. FFY2020-21 was the first complete year in which the First 5 in-home educators used the PSSC evaluation tool for all participants that received MEDC lessons.
Preliminary results of the PSSC pre/post survey evaluating the MEDC curriculum delivery in San Joaquin County showed opportunity for capturing FRM behavioral outcomes related to MEDC. A total of 95 matched pre/post PSSC surveys were analyzed among the MEDC series participants.
Survey respondents were primarily female (95%) and all 18-59 years old. Most participants self-identified as Hispanic or Latino (88%).
Adults (n=95) who participated in the Making Every Dollar Count series showed statistically significant improvements (p<.000) from the pre- to post- survey in how often they:
- Compared unit prices before buying food;
- Shopped with a grocery list;
- Thought about healthy food choices when deciding what to feed their family;
- Used the “Nutrition Facts” on the food label to make food choices;
- Used MyPlate to make food choices; and
- Used food resource management behaviors (plan, price, shop, think, fact).
The percent who reported improvements in these behaviors at five weeks post-series ranged from 88% (for thinking about healthy food choices when deciding what to feed their family) to 98% (for using MyPlate to make food choices). In addition, after attending the MEDC series, adult participants reported running out of food before the end of the month significantly less often (p<.000) suggesting an improvement in their families' food security.
Participants responded to the question, “What changes have you made since you have taken these classes?”
”Ahorrar dinero al hacer una lista de mis compras.”
Translation: “Save money by making a shopping list.”
“Aprendí a cuidar mi economía.”
Translation- “I learned to take care of my finances.”
These outcomes, along with efforts to understand the behavioral impacts of MEDC programming, are part of UC ANR's commitment to improving economic prosperity and securing safe, abundant food for all Californians.