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Tailoring Healthy Living Programs to Nevadans in Recovery

| Nevada


SNAP-Ed nutrition educators and implementers in rural communities across the pacific southwest are learning how to tailor nutrition and physical activity programs to individuals suffering from or seeking recovery for substance use.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Rural Opioid Technical Assistance Regional Centers for HHS Region 9 funded a one-day training for SNAP educators to learn from experts about the relationship between nutrition and substance use recovery. This training focused on promoting SNAP-Ed in rural communities to reach these audiences and incorporated nutrition education and physical activity in substance use treatment. 


20 million Americans are in recovery for substance use, many are low-income and experience food insecurity1. Individuals in recovery, particularly those with stimulant use, are characterized by malnutrition, low energy and fatigue, impaired metabolism, and faulty hunger cues2

Some individuals may be hesitant to seek recovery services over fear of being negatively judged. SNAP-Ed offers opportunities to reach many of these individuals and positively impact recovery outcomes using a trauma-informed approach that addresses the whole person, including nutrition and physical activity behaviors. A trauma-informed approach helps people learn and receive nutrition information in a way that recognizes how stress and adversity affect health and behavior, avoids shaming and stigma, and promotes resilience (Leah’s Pantry).


Augmenting existing substance use treatment with physical activity and nutrition education may increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity participation and help improve recovery outcomes3,4,5. To support and empower SNAP-Ed nutrition educators and program implementers, the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT), Leah’s Pantry, University of Nevada Reno Extension, and the Pacific Southwest Addiction Technology Transfer Center hosted a regional training to bring SNAP-Ed staff from rural communities together.  

The SNAP-Ed Staff training accomplished the following:

  • introduced the population (i.e. individuals in substance use recovery) and their needs.
  • demonstrated the impacts of drug use, especially stimulants, on the brain, body, and behavior.
  • provided a trauma-informed approach for nutrition education.
  • helped SNAP-Ed staff understand how to leverage nutrition education and physical activity programming in settings serving individuals in recovery. 
Following the training, SNAP-Ed attendees expressed that they felt “empowered to better serve this audience with SNAP-Ed resources” and were motivated to “approach recovery centers with nutrition education.”

This innovative training was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Rural Opioid Technical Assistance Regional Centers for Health and Human Services Region 9 (ROTA-R9) and showcased a collaboration across federal funding streams. SNAP-Ed staff learned that meaningful participation with this population may improve treatment outcomes while maximizing food security, nutrition, and physical activity.  The training topics were incorporated into Nevada’s SNAP-Ed programming in FFY23. SNAP-Ed instructors provided Healthy Steps to Freedom (direct education) to a community partner that serves individuals recovering from substance use. These topics were also included in the FFY24 SNAP-Ed plan in Nevada. SNAP-Ed instructors will be providing additional nutrition education curricula (Eating Smart Being Active and Cooking Matters) to recovery audiences in multiple counties in the state.

Sustaining Success

As part of the SAMHSA funded ROTA-R9 Project, consultation services regarding stimulant use and its impact on treatment and recovery services will be provided for SNAP-Ed nutrition educators and program implementers. In addition, an online course is being developed and will be available for ongoing training opportunities to ensure SNAP-Ed programming is leveraged when working with this population.  

This training was made possible by subject matter experts in academia, State and federally funded organizations and local non-profit organizations across multiple disciplines.

This success is related to professional development and building integration between SNAP-Ed and SAMHSA. The closest indicator would be ST8 (multi sector partnerships).


12021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (
2Strike, C., Rudzinski, K., Patterson, J., & Millson, M. (2012). Frequent food insecurity among injection drug users: correlates and concerns. BMC public health, 12, 1058.
3Lindsay AR, Warren CS, Velasquez SC, Lu M. A gender-specific approach to improving substance abuse treatment for women: The Healthy Steps to Freedom program. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2012;43(1):61-69. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2011.10.027
4Grant LP, Haughton B, Sachan DS. Nutrition education is positively associated with substance abuse treatment program outcomes. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104(4):604-610. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2004.01.008
5Whatnall MC, Skinner J, Pursey K, et al. Efficacy of dietary interventions in individuals with substance use disorders for illicit substances or illicit use of pharmaceutical substances: A systematic review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2021;34(6):981-993. doi:10.1111/jhn.12871

Macy Helm 

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