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In Tennessee, SNAP-Ed Gives Participants in Alternative Corrections Programs Skills for Healthy Living

Oct 07, 2022

For many people, budgeting, meal planning, and cooking can be a difficult process. For those with previous incarceration, this process can be especially challenging. Tennessee State University’s (TSU) SNAP-Ed program is working with alternative corrections programs to help previous offenders, many who have struggled with substance abuse, gain skills and confidence to plan, shop, and prepare healthy foods.   

Day Reporting Center Rutherford County, TN

Many of the participants of the Day Reporting Center, an alternative to incarceration, enter the program with little or no knowledge on food safety, meal planning and budgeting, or eating healthy. In some instances, participants entered the criminal-justice system before living on their own, or as young adults, and may not have experience planning and cooking their own meals.

TSU’s SNAP-Ed program in Rutherford County reached 14 of these participants over the course of 8 weeks. Coming into the program, a common belief among participants was that planning and cooking healthy meals was time consuming and expensive. Through a variety of discussions and activities, participants learned how to make healthy meals quickly and affordably.

  • “I learned that cooking isn’t as hard as it seems.”
  • “I’ve learned a lot about many different foods, how much of that food I should eat and how much sugar is actually in certain products.”
  • “This class has helped me out with budgeting my grocery lists.”
  • “How easy it is to plan healthy meals.”
  • “I’ve tried to stop eating fast food so much and also no soft drinks.”

8-Week Program Participants

The team will continue to work with the Day Reporting Center and is looking to enroll new participants as they enter the program. All participants complete an entry and exit questionnaire about their budgeting and eating habits. This helps measure any changes made and evaluate the success of the program. 

Think Fast, Day Reporting Center, Davidson County, TN

The TSU SNAP-Education Agent in Davidson County taught classes at the Day Reporting Center from the Cooking Matters at Home curriculum. The week before graduation, the educator played a game she created called “Think Fast.” The participants could play to cover any classes that they missed. The educator broke the participants up into two groups in which they competed with one another. There were four stations. The two teams had the opportunity to answer questions from the Cooking Matters at Home curriculum. Each correct answer allowed the teams to gain points. The four stations also had an obstacle course that the two teams had to complete. Even if both teams couldn’t answer the question correctly, the obstacle course allowed them to receive points. The Think Fast game allowed the educator to develop a fun way to do a make-up class for participants. It also added in an opportunity for the participants to move more. Who says learning and moving more can’t be fun?

collage: 2 images of participants hula hooping and having fun, one image of cooking utensils.

Submitted by Tennessee State University SNAP-Education.

For more information, contact Shea Austin Cantu, Ed.D., Director of Community Nutrition Education Program, Tennessee State University.