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Empowering Healthy Choices in Schools, Homes and Communities: Community Initiative

| Georgia


This story was originally submitted in 2018. Read the update to this initiative submitted on May 6th 2022. 

Community Initiative- Then & Now

The HealthMPowers Community initiative has consistently sought to evolve and offer the most effective programming to support healthy behaviors and environments in Georgia communities.  What once was a program that focused on single direct education opportunities has become a thriving program that offers series-based nutrition education with hands-on learning opportunities involving both youth and caregivers.  At its inception this program was primarily designed to provide consistent healthy community messaging and partnering with small retail outlets. Now it incorporates large scale promotion by collaborating with early care centers and K-12 schools to support policy, system, and environmental changes in participating communities.  

Eat three vegetables + two fruits Every Day! Be a Healthy HERO with an image of a woman wearing a cape and holding a bag of fruits and vegetables

As we continue to grow and work alongside community partners, more program options are on the horizon, such as greater support at community farmer’s markets, school gardens, food pantries and faith-based organizations. Since the beginning, HealthMPowers has relied on input from community members, partners and program participants to guide the work.  It is this collaborative spirit and approach that is driving the work to progress accordingly.  

Lastly, as we look to the future, we will be embarking on even more community participatory approaches as they relate to programming, resource selection, and evaluation.

Below you will find more specific highlights from the Be a Health Hero Social Marketing Campaign, Nutrition Education efforts and Partnerships.

Be a Health Hero: EAT, DRINK, MOVE social marketing campaign

One of the flagship components of the HealthMPowers community initiative is the Be a Health Hero – EAT, DRINK, MOVE multi-channel social marketing campaign which uses clear and consistent messaging targeting healthy nutrition and physical activity behavior change through text messages, school and community posters and banners, educational reinforcements, healthy messaging boards, and other signage.  The Be a Health Hero social marketing campaign was designed for youth and their families to be receive consistent health messaging where they live, learn, shop, and play within their community. 

For the development of this campaign, HealthMPowers partnered with Public Health Institute- Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN), a national leader in developing campaigns, programs, and partnerships to reduce obesity and promote equity in the most vulnerable communities across the country.  Focus groups with SNAP-Ed eligible populations, adult and youth, were held to get feedback on both messaging and images that resonated the best with the community audience. Simple, short, relatable images with vibrant colors that convey movement, activity, and healthy behaviors were desired from respondents.  

As recently as 2019, out of 515 SNAP-Ed eligible people surveyed, 62.5% of respondents could recall at least one true ad location and at least one social marketing image using unaided recall.  In addition, in 2021, the Be a Health Hero- EAT, DRINK, MOVE social marketing campaign was assessed with the use of media impressions for paid outdoor advertisement obtained by HealthMPowers from their media vendors. In total, across seven Georgia counties, there were more than 20 million media impressions, which included totals for both the youth and adult EAT, DRINK, MOVE campaigns.

The development of this campaign is an example of working alongside communities and allowing their voice to guide programming and decision making.

Nutrition Education

To ensure a consistent focus on improving healthy eating and physical activity behaviors in the family homes and neighborhoods of those served in our childcare, school and after school programs, nutrition education has been at the core of the Community Setting work.  Initially adult sessions were provided to area residents, approved non-profits and community centers reinforcing the healthy eating content youth learned in schools. Sessions targeted reading food labels and Go, Slow, Whoa Healthy foods, snacks and beverages.  In an effort to increase child and adult exposure to fruit and vegetables, taste tests were established at farmers’ markets, food retail stores and community partner sites.  These opportunities yielded very favorable responses to intent and self-efficacy surveys. 

3 images of kids cooking

As the setting work matured, direct nutrition education was offered using Cooking Matters, an evidence-based program for teaching student/parent classes at food pantries and participating schools on how to cook healthy, affordable meals. Changes in participant pre to post survey responses were reported MT1c, d, g, h.

Due to the pandemic, the team relied on innovative solutions to continue their reach to families, including a series of instructional cooking videos. Food outlet staff were provided TA on implementing effective digital strategies.  In the most recent years, the setting’s direct nutrition education is more strongly integrated with partnering childcare centers, schools, after school programs and communities.  


3 images from a farmers market; the first image has bags of peaches with the Eat Three Vegetables + 2 Fruits signage; the second image feature a woman wearing an apron that says Eat Three Vegetables + 2 Fruits and she standing next to a box of peaches; the third image shows a man getting a drink from a pitcher of water flavored with fruits

Building strong local partnerships and engaging community residents is still at the crux of the Community Setting work.  In most recent years, the Community Setting has shifted its programmatic focus away from retail settings to a more impactful and sustainable partnership with food pantries, community gardens, schools and community organizations- all with a common goal of increasing access to healthy food items and promotion of healthy eating behaviors within these settings.  

Of late, strategies reflecting best practices have been employed at food pantries and farmer’s markets.  A Healthy Checkout instrument, developed by Public Health Institute (CWN), was used to assess healthy items stocked and the amount of space allocated to healthy foods and beverages. Healthy food donation lists for food pantries were shared with community change agents to support their needs.

The Community Setting’s work is now more strongly integrated with HealthMPowers’ other settings to encourage positive health behavior changes from an all-encompassing community lens. There is now a focus on capturing and using local data and/or maps to show both assets and barriers to healthy food access and nutrition and physical activity resources as well as feedback from listening sessions.  
Despite the challenges associated with implementing the program during the height of the pandemic, as indicated in the FY21 SNAP-Ed Annual Report, 23 PSE improvements were still realized, including:
·    6 Nutrition Systems Changes (MT5c)
·    9 Nutrition Environmental Changes (MT5d)
·    8 Nutrition Promotions (MT5e)

 "I have prepared that recipe every single week since I tried it back in September. My kids love it! I still have the recipe card hanging on the fridge.” - Food Pantry Taste Test Participant 

“I really just like working with [HealthMPowers]…we consider them part of the market, so they are definitely a part of our community. They are just one more brick in our foundation of the consistent level of education that we can provide to our shoppers.”
Farmer’s Market Manager

“HealthMPowers has opened my eyes to the need to provide access to healthy options for our low-income clients.” - Outreach Director at Food Pantry

“I can’t say enough positive things about HealthMPowers! Their program, without a doubt, has increased my produce sales and have got customers talking. They often ask when the next HealthMPowers event is going to be held so they don’t miss out. They are truly fostering a tight-knit health culture within our community.”  - Store Manager of Shoppers Value Foods


“Thank you for being so patient with us and for teaching us all the details, how to read the labels, choose healthier options and save money so thank you.” - Cooking Matters Family

Original Story published on October 31, 2018

Community Initiative

HealthMPowers helps communities change their culture. The communities change to support healthy lifestyle choices. In 2016-2017, the Community Initiative expanded into 14 food outlets. The food outlets were located in 3 low income counties: Baldwin (Milledgeville), Washington (Sandersville) and Savannah-Chatham (Savannah). There are 32,024 adults in those communities who are eligible for SNAP. The goals of the Community Initiative were to: 

  • Increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables at local food outlets
  • Establish common social marketing messages to use in stores 
  • Increase the purchasing and consumption of fruits and vegetables 

“HealthMPowers is committed to creating healthier environments to improve nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Our community work engages existing coalitions, food outlets and local leaders in promoting these healthy choices.” - Suzanne Glenn

Be a Health Hero: EAT, DRINK, MOVE social marketing campaign

Community members and HealthMPowers created this social marketing campaign. They wanted to spread health messages in a way that would reach their neighbors. They used the following tools to promote the message: billboards, posters, food retail window clings, banners, purchase prompts, shopping tote bags, and store signage. All of the tools promoted the following messages.


Three Vegetables + Two Fruits


More Water + Less Sugary Drinks


One Hour + Limit Screen Time

Within one year, positive change was evident. “Our store now has healthy promotional signage and we are selling fresh produce including apples, bananas and oranges for our customers… and they are buying them!” - Store Manager of Milledge Foods and Gas

Taste Testings Influence Customer’s Health Habits

In addition to health messages, customers have monthly taste testings. Community Engagement specialists conduct taste testings in stores. One store regular is Henry Hokey. He works at the car repair shop located across the street from Milledge Foods and Gas. He came through the store for taste testings on several occasions. Henry used to stop by the store several times a day to buy a soda and a snack. Over time, he talked with the HealthMPowers’ Specialist during taste tests. He learned why some foods are more healthy than other foods. Based on what he knows now, Henry has started choosing water as his drink of choice! 


HealthMPowers surveyed 283 customers to conduct an evaluation of the Community Initiative. 

  • 36% noticed that bottled water was newly available
  • 60% reported drinking less soda
  • 71% reported purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at least once a week
  • 50% reported eating more fruits
  • 45% reported eating more vegetables

Participants who received nutrition education also indicated greater confidence in:

  • choosing healthy food for their family
  • choosing healthy foods for their family on a budget
  • using the “Nutrition Facts” on food/drink labels to make healthy choices
  • 80% of nutrition education class respondents planned to purchase more fruits and vegetables
  • 100% of fruit and vegetable taste testing participants responded they planned to purchase the fruit/vegetable

“The HealthMPowers nutrition classes have been an eye opener for me. They encourage me to eat better, which is important being that I’m a diabetic.” - Nutrition Class Participant

This story was originally submitted by HealthMPowers, a SNAP-Ed Agency in October, 2018. For more information, please contact Heather Rice at 770.817.1733. An update to the story was submitted and published in May, 2022.

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