SARASOTA/DESOTO COUNTIES, FL – Numerous studies suggest that socioeconomic status has a dramatic impact on eating habits. Even in cases where low-income families may be aware of the benefits of healthy eating, the cost and availability of healthy foods pose significant barriers to adopting a nutrient-rich diet. And an unhealthy diet is directly connected to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
In an effort to help lower-income Florida residents to improve the quality of their diet and prevent chronic diseases, Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has awarded a state contract to All Faiths Food Bank – and eight other Feeding Florida food banks and other organizations – for the nutrition education program, SNAP-Ed. This program offers nutrition education and obesity prevention services, using a combination of approaches including educational strategies and environmental supports designed to facilitate the voluntary adoption of food and physical activity choices and other nutrition-related behaviors conducive to health and well-being.
According to a study of aggregated data from eight states in the Southeast U.S., published in the Journal of Nutritional Science in 2020, “ … adults and children in SNAP-Ed programs are more likely to make a number of positive behavior changes, including eating more fruit and vegetables.”
The contract provides funding for staff to support the program roll-out: All Faiths Food Bank has promoted one team member and hired two new staff members. Nutrition education manager Kristina Richardson, M.Ed., has worked at All Faiths since 2018 and will oversee the nutrition education team. New hires are nutrition educators Claudia Castillo, who is bilingual in Spanish and has a decade of providing nutrition education to children and adults in Sarasota County, and Courtney DeFrank, who has nonprofit experience providing accessible and inclusive programming in Manatee County.
All Faiths expects to serve a total of nearly 1,500 participants in Sarasota and DeSoto counties in the coming year. The work on this effort began in November and the first class took place in February of this year.
Components of the SNAP-Ed “curriculum” include: “Cooking Matters,” developed by Share Our Strength, which teaches participants to shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthier choices and cook delicious, affordable meals (for parents of children ages 0-5); and “Food Smarts,” a trauma informed direct education intervention developed by Leah’s Pantry, which is designed to support healthy behavior change in the areas of healthy eating, food safety, cooking, food waste reduction, and food resource management (for adults 18-plus).
“We are proud to be a trusted partner of the Florida DCF in helping our neighbors in Sarasota and DeSoto counties to lead healthier lives,” said All Faiths Food Bank’s chief program officer MJ Horen. “This program aligns perfectly with our new strategic plan, which emphasizes meeting people where they are in our efforts to reverse the cycle of poverty and end hunger before it even begins.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families is the state agency responsible for the administration of federally aided public assistance programs and implements the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida. The food banks will focus on adults 18 and over while the University of Florida will continue its nutrition education work with children.
For more about All Faiths Food Bank, visit allfaithsfoodbank.org.
About All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank is the only food bank and largest hunger relief organization in Sarasota and DeSoto counties, providing millions of meals each year in collaboration with 480 programs and partner agencies throughout the community. All Faiths works not only to end hunger today but also strives to end hunger – forever – by helping families and individuals gain long-term food security, enjoy better health outcomes, and achieve self-sufficiency. All Faiths is rated 4 stars by Charity Navigator and is a member of the Feeding America and Feeding Florida networks. For more information visit allfaithsfoodbank.org.