Shepherd University’s United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) has expanded this past year, allowing more students to gain experience working with children in additional elementary schools.
Shepherd has a $168,685 subcontract with the West Virginia University Extension Service to carry out the SNAP-Ed program. During the fall and spring semesters, more than 60 Shepherd students from the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Sport Studies and the Department of Education presented lessons in nutrition in nine schools in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, using the Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go curriculum and the Show Me Nutrition program.
The Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go curriculum, which was developed for third graders, teaches healthy eating through hands-on gardening activities.
“I think it’s valuable for students to see where their food comes from and not just think it comes from the produce section of a supermarket,” said Emma Barr, Shepherd SNAP-Ed assistant director. “It’s good to show them that they can grow food themselves if they want to and have them learn about the nutrition behind it.”
Shepherd SNAP-Ed has also been piloting a new program called Show Me Nutrition, in which students learn things like the difference between white and brown rice and white and wheat flour. They also learn how to read nutrition labels and experience food tasting.
“I really like it because it’s strictly nutrition,” said Julia Tracy, Shepherd SNAP-Ed director. “Not every school is interested in the gardening piece, so it’s nice have Show Me Nutrition for those schools that don’t need or want the gardening.”
Shepherd students assigned to go into the schools are given packets with all the materials they need to present a research-based curriculum. The programs are offered once a week and four to five lessons a semester are presented.
Barr said the athlete ambassador program, where Shepherd athletes visit schools to talk about being healthy and staying active, also continues.
“The students light up. It’s so awesome to see their faces get excited when somebody is there who plays a sport that they are interested in,” Barr said. “It makes it feel more tangible. It’s something they can do. It’s a goal they can reach.”
Dr. Virginia Hicks, assistant provost for community outreach, said SNAP-Ed provides value both to Shepherd students and the public schools they serve.
“I applaud the quality of work being completed by the SNAP-Ed program,” Hicks said. “This is such a great experience for our Shepherd students. I especially want to thank the Berkeley and Jefferson County school systems for providing a venue for our university students to work with elementary school students.”