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SNAP-Ed can improve nutrition of low-income Americans across life span


Hersey, J., Cates, S., Blitstein, J., & Williams, P. (2014). SNAP-Ed can improve nutrition of low-income Americans across life span. (RTI Press Publication No. RR-0023-1406). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press. DOI: 10.3768/rtipress.2014.RR.0023.1406


Nutrition education in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-Ed) is designed to promote healthy eating behaviors in a low-income target population. In particular, SNAP-Ed programming encourages participants to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and switch to lower fat dairy products. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we independently evaluated eight programs that were selected as possible model SNAP-Ed programs. Our evaluations used robust research designs (experimental or quasi-experimental), similar primary outcome measures across the studies, and statistical analyses to account for clustering of participants within settings. These evaluations found a significant effect in outcomes for four programs: one in child care settings, two in elementary schools, and one in senior centers, suggesting that SNAP-Ed has the potential to be effective for some individuals across all age groups. Additionally, the study findings suggest that the maturity of the program (that is, experience in implementing the program over time) may make nutrition education more effective. Future studies should assess the longer-term effects on nutrition behaviors and sustainability of SNAP-Ed programs for preschool- and elementary-aged children, adults, and senior citizens.

Author Details

James Hersey

At the time of publication, James C. Hersey, PhD, was a principal scientist in RTI International's Food and Nutrition Policy Research Program.

Sheryl Cates

Sheryl C. Cates, BA, a senior research policy analyst in RTI’s Food, Nutrition, and Obesity Policy Research Program, has more than 25 years of experience conducting consumer behavior research related to nutrition and food safety. She conducts studies to assess consumer use and understanding of labeling features and response to alternative label formats. Her research also assesses the impact of educational interventions on outcomes related to healthy eating and foodborne illness prevention.

Jonathan Blitstein

Jonathan L. Blitstein, PhD, is a research psychologist in RTI’s Food, Nutrition, and Obesity Policy Research Division.

Pamela Williams

Pamela A. Williams, PhD, is a senior research scientist specializing in health communication in RTI’s Center for Communication Science.