Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
UC Delivers Impact Story

Tackling Childhood Obesity: A Systems Change Approach

The Issue

Tackling Childhood Obesity: A Systems Change Approach
UC CalFresh Program Areas
On paper, the charge was clear: launch a statewide effort to integrate the nutrition education programs of the US Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) funded partners. Address childhood obesity and food insecurity holistically, yet specifically. Do this through policy, systems, and environmental approaches that will leverage community participation and resources in order to create sustainability at the local level. Accomplish this as funding is declining in SNAP-Ed programs. What would this integrated effort look like in practice? How could a work plan weave together the many agencies, actors, and systems that influence a child's earliest years, a family's food selection, and school and community activities?

What Has ANR Done?

A problem as multifaceted as childhood obesity requires a similarly complex public health approach to meet the challenge. It is with this charge that over the past four years the University of California's CalFresh Nutrition Education Program has been closely working on nutrition education and obesity prevention service delivery with the California Departments of Social Services, Public Health, Aging, and Catholic Charities to redefine SNAP-Ed programming. SNAP-Ed work is now being executed through multi-agency county-led integrated work plans which embody policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change in the body of work previously seen as a direct education program in schools and communities. Adding PSE activities to SNAP-Ed work acknowledges that a systems change approach that comprehensively addresses nutritional health where people live, eat, learn, work, shop and play most effectively assures that children and their families will benefit from SNAP-Ed educational efforts.

The Payoff

Positive changes are taking place at many school and community sites

Comprehensive changes in schools and communities have been cited by a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report to help children grow up at a healthy weight. As we work with communities in 861 sites, UC CalFresh offices are beginning to report changes. In 2016, the following have been reported:
~ 126 edible gardens have been established, maintained or re-invigorated in 25 counties;
~ 121 sites are implementing Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) activities in 23 counties;
~ 106 sites with School or District Wellness Committees are receiving UC CalFresh technical assistance or participation;
~ 39 SNAP-Ed sites in 9 counties are receiving UC CalFresh technical assistance in Farm-to-Table procurement changes;
~ UC CalFresh is working on improvements in Physical Activity (PA) Environments at 17 SNAP-Ed sites across 5 counties such as access to safe walking, bicycling paths, or Safe Routes to School;
~121 total UC CalFresh staff have been trained in CATCH, a PA curriculum; and
~22 County UC CalFresh PA leads identified opportunities for the advancement or integration of PA curriculum.


UC CalFresh State and County Office Representatives

Andra Nicoli, UC CalFresh State Office,

David Ginsburg, UC CalFresh Director,