Auburn, Alabama — A perfect example of the win-win partnership between a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, Alabama Extension’s EFNEP program and SNAP-Ed is found in Tuskegee, Alabama, a rural community of 8,800 residents. The poverty rate there is 29 percent and 96 percent of the population is African-American.
Similar to a three-year CDC grant, Alabama Preventing and Reducing Obesity: Helping to Engage Alabamians for Long-Term Health (ALProHealth), Alabama Extension’s EFNEP and SNAP-Ed also have an overall goal to prevent and reduce obesity.
“It seemed logical for the three initiatives, where available, to partner, incorporate policy, systems and environmental changes (PSE), to combat obesity,” said Dr. Barbara Struempler, program leader for Alabama Extension nutritional programs. “Moreover, this collective partnership in high-risk communities better utilizes the diversity of funds and human capacity. It is important to remember that PSE strategies take a village.”
Tuskegee has three family-owned grocery stores. One of the findings from the needs assessments conducted by ALProHealth was to increase access to healthy foods and beverages in local stores. The Nutrition Environment Measures Survey scores were low for all three stores. Based on these results, Alabama EFNEP/SNAP-Ed educators approached the owner of one of the stores. In general, they provided technical assistance by proposing a three-pronged model to help the store owner provide healthier foods and beverages to community shoppers.
First, a plan to redesign placement of existing foods and beverages was implemented. Luck was on their side as the owner was wanting to remodel. Part of the recommended redesign included a small cooling unit to visibly place healthy impulse buys, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and water, near the checkout aisles.
Second, educators worked with the owner on increasing procurement of healthier food and beverage items. One example was to add cut-up fruit as a healthy food item for customers. The owner is now purchasing and selling 10 cases of cut-up fruit per week.
“Good Choice” Signage
Third, “Good Choice” signage was added in the store to help customers easily identify healthier food choices. Signs guide customers to foods with low sodium, 100 percent whole grains, low sugar and 100 percent fruit juice.
Struempler says, the campaign is expanding to stores due to the productive partnership of ALProHealth, EFNEP and SNAP-Ed. Through EFNEP and SNAP-Ed educators’ efforts, this state level partnership is broadening the reach of local obesity-prevention efforts.
Good news travels fast. Due to the success of the first store, the remaining two stores in Tuskegee requested this strategy in their stores. Successes are being realized in each of the three stores.
“ALProHealth, EFNEP and SNAP-Ed are a winning combination, but the real winners are Alabama citizens,” added Struempler.