- (Condition Change) Improved access to positive built and natural environments
SNAP-Ed practitioners adopt a practical, effective tool from UC ANR's NPI to evaluate program impact in schools, ECEs, after-school programs, and grocery stores, adding workforce capacity to public health agencies.
In recent decades, increasing attention has been placed on improving access to healthy foods and opportunities to participate in physical activity in California communities with high rates of poverty and food insecurity. Schools and other places where children receive care are important partners in promoting wellness, as are the retail establishments where families purchase food. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) interventions partner with these community sites to promote healthy eating and physical activity.
UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has developed and tested Site-level Assessment Questionnaires (SLAQs) to empower local health departments (LHDs) and other agencies working with schools, early childhood education centers (ECE), out-of-school programs, and grocery stores to perform annual assessments of wellness practices at each site. A SLAQ is a setting-customized, easy-to-use questionnaire comprised of multiple sections, each of which addresses a specific wellness domain, such as the school food environment or prominence of healthy food displays in a grocery store. Topic experts, including extension and SNAP-Ed professionals, education professionals with nutrition expertise, and academic researchers,reviewed SLAQs and provided valuable contributions regarding their questionnaire validity and content. The SLAQs were then pilot-tested in the field for feasibility, validity, and reliability.
Extension programs can partner with schools, ECEs, out-of-school programs, and grocery stores to use completed SLAQs to identify areas of need and create action plans for improvement. As sites perform annual reassessments, they receive concrete data that reflect the progress of their programs. SLAQ scores from multiple sites can be aggregated to measure the degree of health promotion in a community, a county, or across the state. Extension programs can also examine how improving health-promoting practices over time relates to changes in health outcomes.
In the first year, SLAQs were implemented across 46 California counties receiving SNAP-Ed funding, including 161 schools, 144 ECE sites, 68 out-of-school programs and 87 grocery stores. Additionally, SLAQs were adopted for use by five California LHDs who received CDC SPAN funding and SNAP-Ed funded elementary schools in Washington.
Local SNAP-Ed implementing agencies are already working with sites to tailor interventions based on the individual site's areas of strengths and opportunities. SLAQ users appreciate having a standardized tool to gather data, pinpoint weaker areas of performance, and strengthen their efforts to improve the health of California's children. NPI's role in expanding science-based evaluation practices demonstrates UC ANR's commitment to promoting healthy people and communities. Maridet Ibanez, Project Director for Orange County Health Care Agency's CalFresh Healthy Living program, highlighted how SLAQs helped them create a “menu” of intervention options that they were ready and willing to collaborate with their sites to implement:
We were able to compare 10 different [ECE] sites. It was a uniform tool that we could use to assess our sites. This wouldn't have been possible without the SLAQs. - Maridet Ibanez, Project Director
- Author: Hawau E Bojuwon
UCCE Kern County and CNAP partners community garden training increased knowledge for 18 local agencies on cultivating and maintaining food-based gardens, and supported UC ANR's commitment to healthy families and communities.
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmap, Kern County's food insecurity rate of 23.8% exceeds California's rate of 18%. Almost 74% of Kern County adults are overweight or obese, posing chronic disease risks such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
How UC Delivers
The Kern County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) for a Healthy Kern empowers local communities to create a culture of healthy living. Collaborative efforts to prevent obesity and other chronic disease include direct and indirect education, outreach, and policy system environmental changes (PSE) to create positive wellness environments where people work, live, and play. UCCE Kern County's Nutrition, Family, and Consumer Sciences Advisor chaired the Kern CNAP for a Healthy Kern, working to help prevent food insecurity and obesity. CNAP collaborated with Kern County Public Health Services Department, McKinley Elementary School, and Kern County Library to plan and conduct the McKinley Home Garden Training program for representatives from 18 community-based organizations.
Research shows that food-centered gardening leads to increased consumption of fresh foods from backyards and community gardens. The UCCE Kern training program included information on gardening basics, health benefits of gardening, and healthy lifestyle choices. Participants received vital information and skills to develop and maintain gardens in food-insecure communities.
As a result of UCCE Kern County collaborations to conduct the McKinley Elementary School gardening training, participants from 18 community agencies increased their knowledge of gardening methods and resources available to start and sustain a garden. Significant changes among participants were documented with a pre/post survey developed by the CNAP. Before the garden training, 78% of participants reported little to some knowledge, skills, or understanding about gardening, and 22% reported having a lot to a great deal of knowledge. In post-survey results, 22% of participants reported little to some knowledge, skills, or understanding of gardening, and 78% reported a lot to a great deal of knowledge, demonstrating a doubling of knowledge that was held prior to the training.
Results of the training were shared at the Kern County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) coalition meeting, which led to a Parks and Recreation inquiry indicating interest in establishing additional gardens across Kern County. Participants noted the benefits of the training as learning how systems work together to achieve impact and serve the community; a great program to teach the younger generation healthy options; impacting their work around implementing Policies, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) changes; a great idea for summer camp classes for students; useful information to start a garden and use the fresh vegetables in nutrition education classes, and implementing herb box container gardening at churches.” These results demonstrate how UCCE Kern County, in partnership with other local agencies, provided knowledge and skills to support healthier families and positive built environments in the community./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Chris McDonald
Participants commit to improving the safety of their landscape after receiving Cooperative Extension information about safely planting drought-tolerant plants, contributing to improved community health.
How UC Delivers
Dr. Chris McDonald, UCCE Natural Resources Advisor and Carolyn Martus, staff research associate, developed a list of commonly sold drought-tolerant plants that are also toxic or harmful. We took our list of 100 plants and created species profiles for each plant that summarized why the plant was harmful and offered advice on how to plant them safely. With the help of UCCE digital media specialist, Benjamin DiAnna, we developed a bookmark, brochure and the Planting Safely in Drought-Tolerant Landscapes website that provides summary information and shows gardeners how to enjoy these plants safely. We also hosted a web-based presentation to show people how to use the website. The project was a team effort and also involved many San Diego Master Gardeners.
Our public education campaign to teach people how to plant safely has helped Californians continue to protect our natural resources and improve water-use efficiency in the landscape while also improving the health of everyone in the community. During our workshop, 100% of participants committed to improving the safety of their landscape. Many of these plants can injure you, for example researchers have found that Euphorbias, such as fire sticks and crown of thorns, can cause serious eye injuries that can require attention by medical professionals. This website and education materials can be used to improve community health and wellness.
“I had a friend whose dog ate a leaf of a Sago Palm and nearly died. It was a shock to learn that some of our favorite plants can be so toxic!” Valorie Shatynski, UCCE Master Gardener.
- Author: William Easlea
- Author: Mary Vollinger
- Author: Andra Nicoli
Collaboration between CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE San Mateo County and local school increases access to green spaces and empowers youth through a Garden Buddy system.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary school is located in Daly City, San Mateo County, a densely populated urban area near San Francisco. Over 72% of its 371 students qualify for the Free and Reduced Meal Program. The school has had no dedicated green space. There are documented health benefits received from spending time in green spaces, yet a 2019 landscape and urban planning study found inequities in access to urban vegetation in communities that have lower income levels and are more ethnically and racially diverse.
How UC Delivers
For over 5 years, CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE San Mateo has partnered with the school to offer physical activity, nutrition education, cafeteria promotions, Safe Routes to School and limited garden-enhanced education to students. An assessment in the fall of 2019 identified the need for technical assistance and training to bring more students and school staff to the garden for year-round learning. A six-person School Garden Committee composed of four teachers, the principal and a CFHL, UCCE San Mateo County Educator worked tirelessly to develop an expanded garden and more robust garden-enhanced learning program.
Challenges of teaching in an outdoor environment include multiple distractions around the school and neighborhood. To address this problem, a garden peer mentor program, modeled on the existing Reading Buddy System, connected older elementary students with younger ones. Garden Buddies offered older students leadership roles to serve as ambassadors to younger students and lead them through garden lessons taught from CFHL's Teams with Inter-Generational Support (TWIGS) and the Junior Master Gardener curricula.
CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE San Mateo found through observation and discussions with teachers that students participating in the Garden Buddy system remained focused on program content and assisted in each other's learning, even though there were more students in the garden at that time. As a result, teachers did not need to expend their class time managing behavioral issues and instead more fully explored curriculum content and activities.
This collaboration resulted in the garden growing from 5 to 18 - 4'x4' garden boxes for garden-enhanced nutrition education throughout the year. As a result of adopting the Garden Buddy system, the school was able to engage 371 students in the garden and build leadership skills. Furthermore, because Garden Safety rules were established the garden became distinguished as a versatile site on campus hosting English and Art classes. During recess periods the garden was a quiet zone for mindfulness exercises, or an area for socializing. A CFHL, UCCE San Mateo Educator described it as often being “a quiet haven for students who did not want to play sports or run around, but rather chat with classmates or look for bugs.” The garden is now accessible throughout the school day and after school. Students can be found in the garden discussing composting and showing their vegetables growth proudly to family members. Community members have also been able to see and feel how the school has greened their formerly concrete recess yard as they visit a food bank distribution site, which is right next to the garden. In these ways, CFHL, UC collaborations have improved access to positive built environments. Research shows that living, working, and playing near green spaces promotes healthy people and communities in San Mateo County.
My fifth graders really enjoyed spending time with their kinder buddies in the garden. Not only was it fun, it also allowed some of my quieter students to take on a leadership role. For some of my more outgoing students, it was a time to have them try to get their buddy to participate more. Students were able to practice listening, speaking, sketching, and writing together in the garden. -Mrs. Kious-Noda, 5th Grade Teacher