California Success Stories

Ready Set Swim!

Submitted by the California Department of Public Health, a SNAP-Ed State Agency.

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program is a fun and innovative way to combine physical activity, nutrition education, and water safety all in one.

The abundance of pools in the Coachella Valley, along with countless child drownings and near drownings, prompted several local organizations to come together. They developed a program to provide children with lifelong water safety skills, and promote good nutrition and physical activity.

With the help of the City of Palm Springs and the Desert Healthcare Foundation, funds were raised to implement the program. Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD), Desert Recreation District, the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, and Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, provided essential components. They provided transportation, swim instructors and facilities to make this collective partnership function seamlessly. Student and adult nutrition education was provided using SNAP-Ed materials developed by the California Department of Public Health.

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program is aimed at third graders. It is designed as an eight-day afterschool program hosted at local Boys and Girls Clubs and pools. Children attend two hours a day over the course of two weeks: one hour focused on swimming skills and physical activity, and the second hour focused on nutrition education.

children in a swimming pool

During the two-week sessions, children and family members participated in a wealth of nutrition activities, including

    • ReThink Your Drink (RYD)
    • Harvest of the Month
    • PowerPlay
    • MyPlate with taste tests of various fruits and vegetables.

At the program graduation, a parent component of a RYD class was offered in English and Spanish.

The “Ready, Set, Swim” program graduated a total of 441 children during its initial year. The success of the “Ready, Set, Swim” program caught the attention of local media, and was featured in local television news and newspapers. Nominated by the Riverside University Health System - Public Health, the program was featured in a success story video produced by the University of California San Diego Center for Community Health and Lan Media Productions. View the video by visiting the link below:

Future plans for the program are very promising. Local organizations and the PSUSD have committed to support the program indefinitely. They are seeking potential partners and funding to expand the program to the other schools and community pools throughout the Coachella Valley. Future plans include water safety classes for parents from trained personnel such as emergency first responders and the Injury Prevention Program.

Program Success
The Ready, Set, Swim program has graduated a total of 1,872 students in 3 years.

    • 85% of students demonstrated an increase of at least 5 new skills in their assigned level, from pre to post test.
    • 93% of the students demonstrated an increase of at least 3 new skills in their assigned level, from pre to post test.

As of June 2017, 14 desert-area elementary schools have participated in the Ready, Set, Swim program.

children watching a nutrition educator

Type of Program
Physical Activity Promotion and Nutrition Education

Years of Implementation
The first year was 2014/15, for elementary schools in Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs.
In 2015/16, the program expanded to include schools in Cathedral City.
2016/17 was the third year of implementation, in all three cities.

Number of Participants
2014/15: 441 students
2015/16: 709 students
2016/17: 722 students

Target Audience
Third grade students from SNAP-Ed eligible schools in the Palm Springs Unified School District.

Program Evaluation
Each participating 3rd grade student is given a swim skills pre-test at the beginning of their 8-day class for group assignment to Level 1, 2 or 3 (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced). At the end of the 8-day program, a post-test is administered to measure their improvement. The pre/post test and swimming instruction is based on the American Red Cross’: Learn-to-Swim program, an evidence-based curriculum.

For further information please contact: Alejandro Espinoza or 760-323-6166.


Children’s Farmers Market by the Food Bank of San Luis Obispo County

This article was written and submitted by the California Department of Public Health, a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency.

There are many families in San Luis Obispo County who lack adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (SLO Food Bank) set out to help. SLO Food Bank started the “Children’s Farmers Market Program” ( This program gives locally grown donated produce to children from low-income families

table with boxes of produce on it

A farmers market for children
The vision was to create an environment much like a Farmers Market, allowing children to select from a variety of fruits and vegetables to take home to share with their families. SLO Food Bank introduced “Food Bank Bucks”, which serve as play money, to simulate a shopping experience.

Nutrition Educators teach children the benefit of choosing healthy foods from local farmers and provide recipe samples for children attending the markets. Students can learn at an early age the benefits of a nutritious diet and share this information with their families.

Positive feedback
The amount of positive feedback received from families, school staff and administrators, and students has been overwhelming. Parents report that children are more willing to try new fruits and vegetables and that their children show increased interest in cooking or food preparation at home.

table with boxes of produce on it

Two thousand children served
The SLO Food Bank Children's Farmers Market Program has been highly successful. It

    • Provides children and their families with nutritious food
    • Improves the school and home environments
    • Reduces agricultural waste
    • Reinforces health education messages

The program has grown considerably since it was first introduced in 2014. In its first full year of full operation, the Children’s Farmers Markets served approximately 1235 children at 111 school sites and events throughout the county.

In 2016, SLO Food Bank held 19 Children’s Farmers Market sites on a set monthly basis spanning over the course of the school calendar year. They held 197 total markets that served an estimated 2287 children. The children were enrolled in after school and summer school programs.

SLO Food Bank will continue to develop and grow this program in their mission to alleviate hunger and build a healthier community.

For more information, please contact Melissa Danehey at or (805) 238-4664.


High School Mini Farm Stand Project

This article was written and submitted by the California Department of Public Health, a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency. The National Health Foundation partners with the California Department of Public Health to implement SNAP-Ed programming.

Thomas Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles has Health Academy Mini Farm Stands thanks to a great idea from the students. Lots of kids miss Breakfast in the Classroom. Now, teachers encourage hungry kids to choose a healthy snack from the Health Academy Mini Farm Stand basket.

How it started
In 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) implemented the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program in all schools. The BIC program was a unique opportunity for all students to receive free breakfast. Less than 40% of students, however, were participating in the BIC program. A number of factors contribute to these low participation rates. Two reasons for this is the students’ late arrival to school causing them to miss BIC, as well as students choosing to eat unhealthy food.

a bunch of teens standing behind baskets of fruit

The Legion of Health student team idea
The National Health Foundation (NHF) partnered with Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS) in South Los Angeles to implement a Health Academy program ( The program, comprised of 38 TJHS students, allowed youth to participate in one of four teams in a youth-led research project of their choice.

The Legion of Health team wanted to do two things:

    • Decrease food waste
    • Increase access to healthy snacks

They had the idea to do this by using the surplus fruit and non-perishable food items from the BIC program for their “Health Academy Mini Farm Stand” pilot project.

a chalk board with health words written all over it

The Mini Farm Stand
The students leading the project recruited teachers to assist with pilot testing the project in a few classrooms. They asked teachers to encourage students to select a healthy snack from the farm stand basket when they were hungry. The teachers also managed a tracking system within each classroom to capture the results.

The students had plenty of school support. The TJHS Cafeteria Manager helped the students capture data and helped them draft a pilot plan. The TJHS Assistant Principal provided initial school support for the project. The Assistant Principal also supported the Legion of Health team’s advocacy efforts for schoolwide implementation the following year.

a basket of apples

Project success
Health Academy Mini Farm Stands have been implemented schoolwide at TJHS. They are also at a neighboring high school, Nava College Preparatory Academy. The success of the pilot project has garnered attention from LAUSD’s Food Services Director. The Director has expressed interest in bringing this to the LAUSD school board to expand the pilot to additional schools. The Legion of Health team plans to advocate for LAUSD district-wide expansion after meeting with the LAUSD School Board.

For more information, please contact Julie Tolentino at or


UC CalFresh Fresno Helps Transform Challenge into Change

This article was submitted by UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program.

Poverty combined with high unemployment rates can be a recipe for disaster. Entire families become engulfed in crisis. Rescue the Children (Rescue) is a ministry of the Fresno Rescue Mission. The Mission is a nonprofit that changes lives lost to drug or alcohol addiction. The Mission assists homeless families and women who have been released from prison. Rescue provides an in-house rehabilitation and transition program. Priscilla Robbins oversees the program and noted the importance of including a nutrition and healthy living component.

community garden

For the past 5 years, UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Fresno County has been teaching the Plan, Shop, Save and Cook (PSSC) curricula to residents. During a class in April 2017, UC CalFresh staff mentioned how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can be used to purchase vegetable plants for a home garden. This spurred a lively discussion of the advantages of growing your own fruit and vegetables. A garden area behind the facility had not been used for many years. Due to resident’s interest, plans were developed to revitalize and sustain the garden.

In Federal Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017, 135 women completed the PSSC lesson series. UC CalFresh worked with UC Master Gardeners to lead garden enhanced lesson for five weeks. After, the residents and their children planted five unused garden beds at the facility. UC CalFresh helped secure donations from Anthem Blue Cross, Jain Irrigation Inc., and Agri-Valley Irrigation, Inc. Garden resource books were donated to Rescue’s library.

community garden

Benefits from the program include:
• food sourced in the garden is served at meal time
• food waste is composted
• children staying with their mothers regularly participate in the garden
• children are exposed to Nutrition Corner in the dining hall

Children attending nearby Addams Elementary received UC CalFresh lessons at school. These lessons reinforced key messages. The garden and lessons have become a source of food and way to create connections between residents and their children. This further empowers the residents as they work together to build confidence, hope, and a new beginning.

Clientele Testimonial
"I have started making healthy food choices. I also plan to, once I go home, to practice all that I've learned about food prices and MyPlate. I can't wait to use the great healthy recipes I learned while taking this course." - Course participant

Karina Macias, MPH, Nutrition Program Manager, UC CalFresh Fresno
Kristi Schultz-Sharp, UC CalFresh Supervisor & Garden Lead
Nancy Zumkeller, UC CalFresh Coordinator
Andra Nicoli, MA, UC CalFresh State Office

School Health Check

This article was submitted by UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program.

There is a lack of databases available to evaluate the impact, effectiveness, or efficiency of school health SHC² programs. Many schools are putting measures in place to promote a healthier school environment. These measures often are not recognized due to the lack of evaluation tools available to assess their impact.

children in the garden

The Center for Nutrition in Schools at UC Davis, in collaboration with UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, developed the “School Health Check” or “SHC²” questionnaire for Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP). SHCP is a nutrition education program that provides a framework for the following components:

• Nutrition Education and Promotion
• Family and Community Partnerships
• Foods Available on Campus
• School Wellness and Regional Agriculture

The SHC² can be used to score a school’s environment based on the SHCP’s components and other health and wellness activities. A score of 82 or higher on the SHC² indicates that the school is meeting or exceeding minimum standards in most areas. Data from the SHC² can be used to:

• determine the effectiveness of a health program intervention
• identify school site strengths
• areas in need of improvement
• measure wellness policy implementation
• bring up valuable topics for community engagement

The School Health Check was used to measure significant improvements in overall school health. A recent School Health Check (SHC²) Progress Report was completed for Barry School in Yuba City, CA. Results from the report showed improvements in all components of the SHCP. The SHC² questionnaire was given at two different times. Time point 1 was the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year. Time point 2 was the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year. A significant improvement was observed in the total score for the SHC² at Barry School from time point 1 (34 points) to time point 2 (71 points).

Some of the greatest areas of improvements identified through the SHC² Progress Report were:
• increases in nutrition education opportunities in the classrooms
• the school partnering with local organizations for health and nutrition causes
• the school providing students and families with information about health, nutrition, and physical activity related services available locally

“Since the SHCP launched at Barry Elementary School, our students have become much more aware of healthy food options. The program has introduced new and healthy food options to students and the delicious food tastings allow students to experience new foods firsthand. The foods sampled are often from our local area, which educates students even further- just how rich in agriculture our area is. The nutrition and physical activity education that is taught with the program can be taken home and utilized as well. The SHCP has incorporated parent involvement, helped revamp our school garden and allowed students’ the opportunity to plant, grow and harvest their own vegetables. I highly recommend this program to all schools. The staff, students and teachers love it when UC CalFresh educators visit Barry Elementary School!” - Barry School Elementary School Counselor

Chelsey L. Slattery, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis and UCCE Sutter-Yuba Counties
Melanie Gerdes, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis and UCCE Sutter-Yuba Counties
Rachel E. Scherr, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis and UCCE Sutter-Yuba Counties
Shyra Murrey, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis and UCCE Sutter-Yuba Counties
Phone: 530-822-7515

Healthy Children, Healthy Families

This article was submitted byUC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program.

Prevalence of childhood obesity is higher (22.4%) in Latino children ages 2-19 years than in non-Latino white children (14%). Obesity rates have recently decreased among 2-5- year- olds nationwide. However, racial and ethnic health disparities persist and indicate the urgency of early prevention efforts in high-risk communities.

man helping a child participant

In 2012, The University of California, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) specialists and advisors joined UC Davis faculty and students to conduct a childhood obesity prevention study. The study was done in a rural community in California’s Central Valley. The study was funded by the US Department of Agriculture. The Niños Sanos, Familia Sana, (Healthy Children, Healthy Family) was a three-year, community-based intervention. The intervention included a monthly voucher to buy fruits and vegetables, an enhanced physical activity program at school, and nutrition education to Mexican-heritage parents with children ages 3-8 years old. A comparison community received non-nutrition related educational programs.

fruit kabobs in a bowl on a table

The main goal of the intervention was to slow down weight gains in overweight, Mexican-heritage children, residing in an agricultural community. Other expected outcomes among children included increased consumption of fruit and vegetables and decreased consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods. The UC ANR specialist and advisors developed culturally-adapted lessons in collaboration with the community and provided oversight of the parent nutrition education program over three years. UC CalFresh and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program provided school-based nutrition education to intervention children. Five hundred and forty-four families and 700 eligible children participated in the study.

Study slows weight gain and improves dietary patterns
This community-based intervention was effective in slowing weight gain in children who were obese at the beginning of the study. By the third year, obese boys and girls in the intervention community had significantly slower increases in body mass index than children in the comparison community.

Findings also show a significant decrease in the frequency of consuming energy dense foods (fast food and snack food items) among the intervention children but no change in comparison children (p <0.008). Interviews with the school staff in the intervention community revealed several important environmental changes, prompted by the NSFS program. This project also produced a culturally-adapted child obesity prevention curriculum, a policy brief on water quality, and a new validated tool for dietary assessment in Mexican-heritage pediatric populations.

two adults sitting at a table

City Council member and local physician, Dr. Marcia Sablan, commented, “The Firebaugh City Council has a goal of showcasing the healthy lifestyle available to our community.” Dr. Sablan added that the city leaders’ commitment to supporting healthy lifestyles resulted from Firebaugh’s participation in the Niños Sanos, Familia Sana study.

Marcel Horowitz, Healthy Youth, Families, & Communities Advisor
Lucia Kaiser, Emerita Specialist, Nutrition Dept. UC Davis

Cafeteria Promotions Enhance Farm to School Efforts

This article was submitted by UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program.

School food service directors in the Bay Area have been working with wholesalers and farmers to include more local or regional produce in school meals. These directors often face tight budgets and purchasing challenges. Students, particularly low-income students, are often unfamiliar with locally grown foods. Promotional efforts are needed to introduce the new items to students and reduce food waste.

cups on a table with smiling faces, neutral faces or frowning faces

The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties has been conducting cafeteria promotions to support farm to school efforts. During a cafeteria promotion event, a featured produce item is presented in bite-sized samples to students in a fun, pressure-free way. Information about the produce item and the farm or farmer is placed next to the sample station. This helps the students make the connection between the featured produce and its source.

UC CalFresh staff encourage each student to try a sample and offer information about the produce. Students then have an opportunity to give their review of the produce item in a voting station. Students are also reminded to look for the item in the lunch line or on the salad bar.

oranges in tasting cups on a table

The Payoff
Cafeteria promotions increase student interest and selection of local produce. To date, 36 local produce items have been sampled during cafeteria promotions in San Mateo and Santa Clara school districts. Food services directors have reported that student interest in featured produce has increased. Student interest was sustained for the entire season of the featured produce following cafeteria promotions.

At one elementary school in Santa Clara County, only 2 Asian pears were selected before being featured during a cafeteria promotion. After the event, students selected 128 pears.

At another elementary school, food service staff reported an increase in student consumption of persimmons from 1/4 case to a full case each week for the entire persimmon season. Increased interest in local produce encourages food service directors to continue farm to school work. The positive results have even inspired a food service director to align the produce she is serving in the cafeteria to what is grown in the school garden. Parents also shared the desire to purchase new produce items because their children tried them at school.

fruit in tasting cups on a table

Clientele Testimonial
Heard from students during cafeteria promotions:
On kiwi: “This is the best harvest ever!” “You guys should do this more often.”
On grapefruit: “That’s grapefruit in the salad bar? I always thought they were lemons.” "I love it so bad!"

Supporting Unit:
UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program UCCE San Mateo/San Francisco, and Santa Clara
Wei-ting Chen, Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor, 650-276-7429
Mary Vollinger, UC CalFresh Nutrition Program Supervisor, 408-282-3118
Andra Nicoli, Program and Evaluation Analyst, (530) 754-9059

Promotora: A Walking Group for Seniors

This story was submitted by Catholic Charities Los Angeles; St. Margaret’s Center, a SNAP-Ed Agency.


      • 28% increase in the amount of fresh produce donated to St. Margaret’s Center Food Pantry compared to the previous year.
      • Garden producing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, chilies and strawberries for food demonstration education.
      • Leveraged community partnerships to provide free water bottles and yoga classes.
      • A successful walking group of 20 community members that meets weekly.

large group of people with matching shirts

Policy, Systems and Environmental Change
At St. Margaret’s Center we implement nutrition education and Policy, Systems and Environmental Change (PSE) work. Our PSE work reinforces healthy behaviors among the public. Our PSE work helps people improve their lives and includes:

      • A new walking club to support and encourage physical activity.
      • The Nutrition Policy for St. Margaret’s Center and Food Pantry. This helps the pantry provide and encourage healthier food selections to the public.
      • The edible garden which extends the fresh produce available to our direct education students and food pantry clients.
      • An active Yoga class that is free to participants.
      • Promotion and access to free water.

Walking Club
The walking club was initiated in May 2017 by a current Nutrition Educator. It started with four of our direct education students that had completed our nutrition classes. They wanted to be part of the new physical activity project which had been promoted throughout our series. The group originally met at St. Margaret’s Center and walked to a local park a few blocks away from the center in the city of Lennox. Participants shared that being part of the walking club made them feel safe to walk around their community. They would never walk around their community alone.
With 4 regular participants, we promoted the club. A local senior center also helped us promote the walking club. Our group grew from 4 participants to 20 participants. Currently, we provide our participants with infused and chilled water and healthy snacks, as well as a Champions for Change shirt for them to wear as they walk. The shirts are given to our participants to give them a greater sense of belonging. At the end of our walking session participants are invited to join our nutrition classes and are provided with nutrition promotion materials. A raffle is done to motivate their continued attendance.
The program is so successful that we no longer have to make reminder phone calls to participants from the senior center. They all remember that Friday morning’s the St. Margaret’s Center Walking Club is ready to walk with them.

large group of people with matching shirts

More Projects
Our Nutrition Policy for the Food Pantry has improved the amount of fresh produce donated to the St. Margaret’s Center Food Pantry in year 2016-2017 in comparison to year 2015-2016. This success benefits some of our direct education students, as many use the St. Margaret’s Center Food pantry services.

Another success with our PSE work was our St. Margaret’s Center garden. In the summer of 2017, the garden produced 30 pounds of cherry tomatoes, 25 pounds of cucumbers, 1 pound of chilies, and 3 pounds of strawberries. The produce was used in our food demonstrations with our direct education students and what was not used was distributed in our food pantry.

At St. Margaret’s Center we promote and encourage drinking water. With the help of community partners, St. Margaret’s Center offers free water bottles as available to participants. From October 2016- September 2017 about 3,400 clients received water at our center.
With the help of a dedicated volunteer Yoga Instructor, St. Margaret’s Center has been able to maintain a free Yoga class for participant since 2015.

For more information, please contact Elisa Pehlke at

eat fresh logo

This article was written and submitted by Leah's Pantry & San Francisco County Human Services Agency. is a USDA-approved recipe and healthy living website available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. It features 400+ culturally-competent, low cost recipes; food discovery pages; healthy messaging pages; Ask a Dietitian; and county resources.

Type of Program
Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) intervention

Years of Program Implementation

Number of Participants
There have been 65,464 unique visitors since launch on 9/30/2013. Eighty percent (53,894) of those visitors are from California.

Target Audience
CalFresh eligible and enrolled individuals and families

Program Evaluation
An impact evaluation on knowledge, attitude, and behavior (KAB) change was conducted from 11/2013-10/2014. No dose-response relationship was found but it did show significant differences in KAB between users and nonusers.

Statistics and Program Impact
71% of users who are enrolled in CalFresh or another means-tested program have not attended in-person nutrition education classes. This suggests that is reaching people who would not have access to SNAP-Ed programming otherwise. has been integrated into county offices, community-based organizations, food banks, and other agencies across California as a way to support clients in making healthy choices outside of in-person programming.

For further information please contact Jessica Silldorff, Sr. Program Coordinator -, Leah's Pantry. All logos are used with permission.