SNAP-Ed works in low-income communities to provide nutrition education to youth and adults. Series-based curricula like 10 Tips for Adults and Teens encourage water as a healthful substitute for sugary beverages, and participants are reporting behavior changes that demonstrate SNAP-Ed interventions are working. In 2017, Maine adults participating in 10 Tips reported statistically significant decreases in daily consumption of sugary drinks like sweetened soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks from 11% to 6% after completing the classes. And 56% of teens reported drinking more water after participating in 10 Tips classes.
In addition to direct education, Maine SNAP-Ed has successfully worked with childcare centers and adult community centers to encourage healthy beverage policies that promote water for meals and snacks. Targeted social marketing campaigns further encourage healthy beverage choices in schools and at home. Combined, these efforts are shifting the culture, and more Mainers are choosing water.
Maine is the most obese state in New England and 26th highest among the 50 States. About 2 out of 3 adults and 1 out of 3 students are either overweight or obese. About 1 out of 3 adult males and 1 out of 4 adult females report daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), putting them at risk for having nutritionally inadequate diets.
There is good news regarding the trends related to the consumption of sugary drinks among Maine youth, however. Between 2011 and 2017, Maine middle and high school students reduced their weekly consumption of SSBs. Most students in middle and high school (almost 4 out of 5) are making healthy beverage choices, and the trends are very promising.
SNAP-Ed uses 3 evidence-based approaches to promote consumption of and access to healthful alternatives to SSBs.
Direct Education – In 2017, 1,800 adults and 664 teens participated in 10 Tips programming, which has as specific focus on water as a substitute for SSBs. Adults report drinking fewer sugary drinks, and teens choose water more often after class participation.
Policy, System, and Environmental Changes – In 2018, SNAP-Ed educators are working in 10 schools, 2 childcare centers, and 5 retail sites across the state to create policies and practices that promote healthy beverages.
Social Marketing – In 2017, 10,000 ChopChop magazines with water promotion messages were distributed to Maine health centers, schools, and social service and community sites.
Going forward, SNAP-Ed programming will continue to focus on healthy beverage choices to build on past successes. In addition to addressing healthful alternatives to sugary drinks in all 7 evidence-based curricula, SNAP-Ed will promote strategies and tips related to using refillable water bottles and purchasing healthy beverages.
Nutrition Educators will continue to promote policies in their communities that support water as a healthful alternative in childcare, school, and worksite settings. Supportive messages that reinforce the positive changes in cultural norms will be incorporated into social marketing campaigns, ensuring that the maximum number of Maine SNAP recipients are reached.
SNAP-Ed also participates on advisory councils and fosters collaborative partnerships where there is a prominent focus on promoting healthy beverages. The goal is to continue and strengthen comprehensive program strategies designed to reduce obesity rates and ensure improved quality of life for low-income Mainers.