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Overcoming Social Gathering Challenges to Advance Healthy Living during a Pandemic

Feb 15, 2022

Summary 
From 2018 to 2019, thousands of Californians attended over 600 Healthy Snack events and over 500 Rethink Your Drink Day of Action events. These events were sponsored by the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) CalFresh Healthy Living program in partnership with health advocates across the state.
 
Event sponsors encouraged adults and children to drink more water and fewer sugary drinks at Rethink Your Drink Day events. At Healthy Snack Day events, participants learned about the importance of snacking nutritiously. 

healthy snack resources available for pickup at a CalFresh location

Challenge 
Due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, event sponsors were forced to cancel in-person events in 2020. In 2021, COVID-19 remained a threat to the public’s health and in-person gatherings continued to be restricted. 

Solution 
The CDPH CalFresh Healthy Living public relations team developed new strategies and tactics, while maintaining the vision of promoting healthy snacks and drinks. They pivoted to online platforms and safe in-person events. The team’s objectives were to: 

  • Provide hosts an opportunity to engage with SNAP-eligible communities in a safe and convenient manner. 
  • Offer technical assistance to partners on hosting virtual events and creating social media content. Events and social media content highlighted the importance of healthy snacking and healthy beverages within the context of a pandemic. 
  • Disseminate existing and new virtual resources that support the campaign themes. 

Just under 200 events promoting healthy drinks and/or snacks were conducted in 2021. Some of the most popular venues for distributing resources during the pandemic were food distribution sites, school grab-n-go events, outdoor farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and vaccination clinics. The most used channels to promote these events were via email, social media, websites, and newsletters. 

Host and event resources were available via the following sites: 

Engagements with campaign digital experiences were achieved through the following sites: 

  • Personal Recipe Finder (15,543 engagements) 
  • Beverage Breakdown (5,465 engagements) 
healthy snack resources available for pickup at a CalFresh location

Evaluation survey results indicate that all hosts (100 percent) of in-person and virtual events found the CDPH public relations team’s technical assistance emails with tips and resources (including webinars) to be very helpful. 

All hosts (100 percent) also reported that the registration process to serve as a sponsor of an event and receive materials was simple. 

“It was great to have the resources readily available to share with the community. I found it useful to educate others and to let them know of the various resources they can use to help them on their journey to a healthier life.” 
Antelope Valley Partners for Health 

Sustaining Success 
For 2022, the CDPH CalFresh Healthy Living public relations team will continue to assess the needs of SNAP-eligible communities, while considering public health measures that may be in place to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CDPH will continue to offer resources for both virtual and safe in-person activities. This will allow partners options for connecting with priority populations. CDPH also plans to build on these activities. They will identify new strategies for engaging the SNAP-eligible population in health promoting events. Events will support direct education and policy, systems and environmental changes. This will make it easier for Californians to be active and eat healthfully. 

“Many of the parents were very thankful for the handouts and recipe cards as they stated their kids are only into drinking sugary beverages and they would like to implement healthier options at home. Many of the kids that came through the drive-through or who were on campus getting on the bus after school…were surprised that there were no added sugars/sweeteners in the water we served….Overall, very positive feedback on how to increase water intake for kids and families at home.” 
San Luis Coastal Unified School District 


SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework Indicators include MT12 Social Marketing.

Contact Information: 
Asbury Jones, Public Relations Team Lead, Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention, California Department of Public Health.
Program Website: https://cachampionsforchange.cdph.ca.gov

Evaluation Framework Indicators