Nutrition Education

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program supports State nutrition education activities which focus on improving the nutrition of SNAP participants. ERS supports nutrition education through its research and evaluation studies.

This page provides the following information/resources:

Nutrition Education Grows

Nutrition education is an increasingly important aspect of the Nation's efforts to improve diets of low-income Americans. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides guidance and funding for nutrition education through what was formerly known as Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE), since renamed as SNAP Nutrition Education, or simply SNAP-Ed. SNAP-Ed activities focus on improving the likelihood that SNAP participants and eligibles will make healthy food choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

State participation in SNAP-Ed is voluntary and requires a State resource match as well as an approved budget and implementation plan. State agency commitment to nutrition education has grown rapidly in recent years:

  • In 1992, the first year of FSNE funding, seven States had nutrition education plans approved by FNS, with total Federal funding of $661,076.
  • In fiscal year 2007, all States had approved FSNE budgets.
  • Approved Federal dollars totaled over $341 million in FY 2009, covering half of the total amount that States spent on SNAP-Ed in that year.

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ERS complements other Federal organizations that provide nutrition support by addressing research issues surrounding food and nutrition assistance programs. ERS activities include reviews of nutrition education activities, reviews of research and evaluation priorities, assessments of various outreach techniques, and studies of relationships between food assistance programs and other human services provided by the government or private sector.

SNAP-Ed Guidance

FNS provides guidance to States for using the most effective nutrition education tools and strategies available in developing their State plans. This guidance encourages States to focus on the following behavioral outcomes when assessing nutrition education needs, developing SNAP-Ed objectives, and evaluating outcomes:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products every day.
  • Be physically active every day as part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Balance caloric intake from food and beverages with calories expended.

Reports of SNAP-Ed/FSNE Research Activities

Evaluation of Food Stamp Program Nutrition Education—ERS and FNS sponsored a set of papers to support evaluation of SNAP-Ed/FSNE nutrition education activities. Published in the Journal of Nutrition Education in September 2001, the papers identify tools to assess nutrition education needs of low-income families and evaluate outcomes of nutrition education programs directed toward this audience.

The Society for Nutrition Education (SNE)—A leader in nutrition education research, has collaborated with ERS and other Federal partners to improve evaluation of SNAP-Ed/FSNE activities. Results of that effort can be seen in a series of three papers published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in 2006:

Developing Common Core Survey Questions to Assess Key Dietary Behavioral Outcomes of FSNE: Launching the Research Process—Participants at an April 2004 workshop hosted by ERS chose potential survey questions from a Prototype Notebook (see link below) of questions selected from nutrition education literature to use in assessing SNAP-Ed/FSNE. Speakers focused on practical applications of evaluation and validation of dietary behavioral outcomes of SNAP-Ed/FSNE.

Prototype Notebook: Short Questions on Dietary Intake, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors

Meetings and Conference Proceedings—USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) provides links to conference slides, papers, and other materials of interest to SNAP-Ed administrators, collaborators, and others involved in nutrition education for low-income persons (see Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-ED)).

Additional ERS Nutrition Education Research:

Research Tools for SNAP-Ed

ERS and FNS provide a number of web-based utilities that provide either information or data for use by the research community.

Nutrition Education Research:

  • SNAP-Ed Data—Get State-level information on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation numbers, Federal SNAP-Ed (FSNE) funding, and Federal SNAP-Ed (FSNE) funding per participant from 1992 to the latest available year (see National SNAP-ED).
  • Research Evaluations of SNAP-Ed Programs—The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) conducted evaluation studies of several SNAP-Ed programs.
  • Education and Administrative Reporting System (EARS)—A reporting form designed to provide uniform data and information about the activities of all States participating in SNAP-Ed activities.

Related Research Tools:

State-County SNAP Participation—An interactive web-based mapping utility that displays program participation and benefit levels at the national, State, and county levels.

  • State Fact Sheets—Get State- and national-level statistics on population, employment, income, and poverty.
  • Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America—Get sociodemographic data through a map-based interface.
  • American FactFinder—Use this Census Bureau source for population, housing, economic, and geographic data from Census 2000, the 1990 Decennial Census, the 1997 and 2002 Economic Censuses, the American Community Survey, and the Population Estimates Program.
  • American Community Survey—Provides up-to-date profiles from the Census Bureau on America's communities. Get timely economic, social, and housing indicators for communities and population subgroups.

Other Nutrition Education Resources

Food and Nutrition ServiceProvides current information on nutrition education in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP-Ed ConnectionA resource system for SNAP-Ed nutrition education providers. Educators nationwide can use this site to find the tools and information they need to provide quality nutrition education for low-income audiences.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service—CSREES)—NIFA facilitates communication among Federal, State, and local partners and provides programmatic support to university contractors for nutrition education through the land-grant system (see CSREES Announces Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Funding Opportunities).

National Web Site for SNAP-Ed Nutrition EducationThis NIFA site provides State-level information and contacts on SNAP-Ed activities.

The following report provides detailed instructions on conducting food security assessments for community-based nonprofit organizations and business groups, local government officials, private citizens, and community planners:

Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit