Fresh Approach to Health Education

Associate Program Director Margaret Haggenmiller with SNAP-Ed class participants.


The arrival of summer weather marks a dramatic increase in the variety of produce available in Minnesota. Though classes, demonstrations and field trips, University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed educators are helping people of all ages share in the bounty. 

Housed at the Robert J Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC), the Unversity's SNAP-Ed program addresses disparities in knowledge about nutrition and exercise in order to prevent chronic disease and obesity through direct education and policy, system, and environmental changes. Shorthand for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Education, SNAP-Ed is an engagement program that uses dynamic teaching methods from cooking classes to tours of grocery stores, inspiring people of all ages to make healthier decisions.

“Staff are involved in projects such as promoting smart choices at food shelves, encouraging use of community gardens, and working with organizations on healthy menu planning,” said SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator Evalyn Carbrey.  SNAP-Ed’s work is guided by the Oakland, California-based Prevention Institute's Spectrum of Prevention, which provides a framework for engagement at various levels, from strengthening individual knowledge and skills to influencing policy and legislation on community health.

SNAP-Ed staff use UROC’s teaching kitchen as well as community gardens tended by local students and staff from the University’s Minnesota Landscape Arboretum as learning spaces. “Our SNAP-Ed staff work closely with community partners to improve the health of the environment for the communities in which they are working. Having SNAP-Ed staff housed at UROC allows us to have a more visible presence in the community,” said Carbrey.

SNAP-Ed also features a variety of classes for older adults to address their unique food access, nutrition, and exercise needs under the umbrella of two sets of curricula: Eat Smart, Live Strong and Seniors Eating Well. In one class, pictured above, residents of the senior independent living apartment complex, Ebenezer Tower, participate in an activity led by SNAP-Ed Educator Donald Warneke to learn about nutrient diversity in produce. Classes like Warneke’s benefit from the shared experiences and stories of participants, ensuring that partnership with community members is a guiding tenet of SNAP-Ed’s curriculum and overall approach to its work.