Barriers to Healthy Eating by SNAP Participants

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Recently, the USDA released a study highlighting barriers that SNAP participants face when trying to eat a healthy diet. Nearly 90% percent identified barriers, with 66% stating that healthy food is not affordable. Additionally, SNAP participants’ responses around preparing and storing food were identified as barriers related to food insecurity. Have you heard this from your program participants?

snap barriers

By offering nutrition education programs funded by the USDA, such as Steps to Health, and collaborating with EFNEP, you can help North Carolinians address hurdles contributing to food insecurity. Furthermore, combining direct nutrition education with policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) initiatives, communities can work together for solutions to food insecurity and building healthy communities.

Steps to Health provides nutrition education programming for both youth and adults that include materials for parents including healthy, easy to prepare recipes. Adult programs focus on chronic disease prevention, and offer recipes and activities to help reach attainable health goals. Likewise, EFNEP provides basic nutrition education for adults with children up to age 18 living in their home. During EFNEP classes, participants learn how to prepare nutritious meals for their family and the skills needed to continue cooking even more.

Recipes provided by Steps to Health and EFNEP are created using affordable ingredients. Ingredients are selected that are readily available, low-cost, and SNAP eligible. Additionally, both programs provide instructional videos and more recipes on their public-facing websites, NC Steps to Health and NC EFNEP. Yet, research shows that nutrition education is not enough to change individual diets, more support is needed.

Combining nutrition education programs with PSE initiatives can support changes that further promote health and food security in communities. Steps to Health provides PSE Toolkits for a variety of settings with a step-by-step process to change the food environment. By working with community partners and champions, Family and Consumer Sciences Agents assess what is needed at a site and help to implement changes as identified by the community. Successful PSE projects in North Carolina include:

  • A Borrowing Kitchen at a food pantry, for kitchen equipment and essential food preparation tools.
  • Double Bucks programs at farmers markets for reducing the cost of produce for SNAP participants
  • Pop-up or mobile farmers markets in areas where food access is a barrier
  • Food distribution at schools in communities where transportation is a challenge

The Cooperative Extension Service is a powerful asset in each county and can help lead efforts to reduce barriers to healthy eating for SNAP participants and others. Family and Consumer Sciences agents working collaboratively with EFNEP Educators and other Extension programs have the ability to address food insecurity by utilizing and maximizing Steps to Health PSE Toolkits with community partners.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are your community champions for food security?
  • Does your School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) have a goal to reduce food insecurity?
  • What are your County Commissions’ goals for a healthy county?
  • What partners can you engage with hard-to-reach audiences in your county?

Steps to Health has the tools to empower your community to ensure that healthy eating and food access can be achieved for everyone.

For more information, attend Steps to Health Training on September 8, 15, and 27, 2021. Additional training and support are provided by our staff throughout the year.

Data Sources:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Census – Quick Facts, North Carolina