For the past two years, WSU Skagit County Extension SNAP-Ed nutrition educators have been a regular presence at the Department of Social and Health Services’ Local Planning Area Meetings. The meetings—intended to increase community outreach—have become the catalyst for an incredible partnership that’s helping Skagit county DSHS clients increase their buying power and make healthy choices for themselves and their families.
Spearheaded by DSHS Community Service employee Edwin Blau, the SNAP-Ed-DSHS partnership has allowed the two entities to collaborate in efforts aimed at improving food access for local DSHS clients. On two occasions, SNAP-Ed staff have been invited to the Skagit county CSO office for a “Lobby Takeover.” These month-long events—in November 2018 and March 2019—provided unique opportunities for SNAP-Ed staff to engage directly with DSHS clients, conducting food demonstrations, instructing classes, and promoting healthy eating campaigns.
While their collaboration has meant increased client awareness, it has also improved DSHS staff awareness of programs and services provided by SNAP-Ed and other partnering organizations. These programs, like Safeway’s Complete Eats program, which allows clients to get free fruits and vegetables using their SNAP benefits, are designed to help enhance participants’ benefits and provide them with tools to make healthy choices.
The information shared by SNAP-Ed has been so helpful, that Skagit county DSHS staff have requested that the SNAP program updates be a regular part of their staff meetings to keep them apprised of available classes and programs, information that they can then pass on to local DSHS clients. These regular updates have been a critical step in improving food access.
“Our goal is to bring something positive to the lives of DSHS clients,” said Talea Price, WSU Skagit County Extension SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator. “These families are trying to get back to normalcy, and it’s so difficult. Conversations about the resources available and how to increase their purchasing power ease the burden a little bit.”
But DSHS clients aren’t the only ones benefiting from increased SNAP-Ed outreach. “These families have so many stories,” Price continued. “They have so much to share. We’re so grateful. Every day, we learn from them.”