I would like to introduce you to Katie Funderburk, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Specialist in Alabama. Katie is also the Nutrition and Evaluation Coordinator for the Nutrition Education Program and SNAP-ED for ACES. I met Katie at the National Extension Association for Family & Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) conference last week, and asked her to share some of the exciting work she’s doing. Enjoy.
Can you describe Body Quest for us?
Body Quest is a SNAP-Ed school-based obesity prevention initiative for third graders and their parents. Through classroom education, including iPad app gaming and vegetable tastings, students significantly increase fruit and vegetable consumption through the School Lunch Program. However, in order to make a lasting change in student behavior, it is important to reach parents, the gatekeepers of nutrition in the home. Text messaging is used to provide education, tips and encouragement to parent participants. Parents receive 3 texts a week for a 15 week intervention. Parents also are given vegetable-rich recipes to be prepared at home. The goal is to help parents make the home environment more “veggie-friendly” to benefit the third graders and make it more likely they will eat vegetables at home. Text messages are action-oriented tips aimed at helping parents increase availability and accessibility of vegetables in the home and model vegetable consumption in a positive way for their third grader.
Why did you decide to integrate text-based messages into your program?
The Body Quest program needed a way to reach parents that eliminated the typical barriers adults, particularly those with limited resources, face when it comes to participating in education. Barriers like limited time and lack of transportation make it difficult for parents to attend special events or classes with their children or to read lengthy newsletters that are sent home. Texting is easy, fun and already integrated into the daily lives of most people.
What was your experience with learning a new technology, tool, or way of working as you developed this program?
When incorporating any technology into education, it is important to tailor your educational messages to the vehicle you are using. Texting requires short, easy-to-read messages. We had to be very intentional with every word to squeeze meaningful nutrition tips into such short messages. The biggest takeaway is for the team to be willing to think outside of the box to engage audiences in new ways.
Was there any inspiration from another Extension colleague, or outside of Extension, that led you to try working this way?
Maryland SNAP-Ed created a texting program called Text2BHealthy a few years ago and published some promising pilot data that suggested texting was a well-accepted mode of nutrition education delivery among low-income parents of elementary school-age children.
What is your next step?
Alabama SNAP-Ed’s texting program began as part of a school-based obesity prevention initiative, Body Quest. Due to its success, we are beginning to open participation in a more general texting initiative available to other SNAP-Ed clients as well. Alabama SNAP-Ed is currently working on developing a social media presence and plans to use it to expand the reach of the texting program and vice versa.
How can others find out more?
Contact Katie Funderburk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sondra Parmer (email@example.com).