June 07, 2018
The University of New England Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) was awarded a five-year contract to implement Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education, known as SNAP-Ed, in Maine beginning on October 1, 2018. This contract will allow the same implementing team to continue delivering the national USDA-funded SNAP-Ed programming statewide here in Maine. The funding allocation for the first year of the award is $3,220,000.
SNAP-Ed is the USDA’s nutrition education arm of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and is funded federally through the Farm Bill. Every state receives a federal SNAP-Ed grant allocation annually. In Maine, the grant is administered by Maine DHHS and implemented statewide by the University of New England through contracts with local community health organizations.
The CEHI team, led by Principal Investigator, Karen O’Rourke, M.P.H., applied for funding in February after holding the contract for six years. The five-year contract was awarded to UNE after the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (Maine DHHS) Office of Family Independence issued a Request for Proposals – a competitive bid process – for the statewide grant.
“Maine SNAP-Ed helps people of all ages,” said Elizabeth Pratt, M.P.H., SNAP-Ed program manager. “Our nutrition educators are highly trained and have developed strong partnerships in their communities over the last six years. We are thrilled to leverage these relationships to reach more SNAP-eligible Mainers and deepen our impact in every county, including tribal communities.”
The goal of Maine SNAP-Ed is to help Mainers maximize their SNAP benefits; learn how to shop, cook and eat healthy food on a budget; and reduce the burden of obesity across the state. Last year, highly qualified nutrition educators delivered 9,610 evidence-based nutrition classes reaching a total of 40,754 youth and adult participants in all 16 counties. Many of those participants attended multiple classes with nutrition educators, resulting in 151,193 contacts.
“The need for evidence-based nutrition education is great, and the award of this five-year contract to UNE ensures that there will be no interruption in these important services we provide,” stated Katie Freedman, food programs director for Healthy Acadia in Ellsworth.
Nutrition Educators also work on policy, systems and environmental (PSE) changes designed to modify the environment to foster healthy behaviors. In 2017, these strategies included implementing school/childcare wellness policies, establishing and promoting school/community gardens, encouraging participation in federal food assistance programs, and increasing access to local fruits and vegetables.
Maine SNAP-Ed depends on strong partnerships to carry out this work across the state, and UNE subcontracts with organizations in all of Maine’s Districts to implement the program.
“We have seen firsthand the impact of these valuable, hands on, interactive learning opportunities in helping people make healthier food choices on a budget, leading to better health outcomes, reduced obesity, and lower health care costs,” said Renee Page, assistant director for Healthy Communities of the Capital Area in Gardiner.
“We are very excited to be continuing the SNAP-Ed program with UNE,” said Director of Somerset Public Health in Skowhegan, Matt L’Italien. “The program they have implemented over the past six years has been a vital part of our efforts to improve the nutrition and overall health of families in Somerset County. We look forward to providing even more innovative and effective ways to educate and empower kids and adults to make better food choices within a limited budget.”
A list of partners can be found here.
To learn more about the Center for Excellence in Health Innovation, visit: www.une.edu/academics/centers-institutes/center-excellence-health-innovation
To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions