SNAP-Ed Appreciation Luncheon highlights program's successes

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With its first SNAP-Ed Appreciation Luncheon, Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office celebrated the successes of the three-year outreach program.

"Our success and our ability to reach people in our community would not be possible without the collaboration and support of you all and our … host agencies that are here today," Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese told those in attendance Thursday. "Thank you for what you do to support our Extension Service programs.

"… I would also like to thank the Bartow County Commissioner's Office for their funding support and the facility improvements that we've had in the last few years as well. We have a great kitchen that's got a lot of good use with our food and preservation programs here locally. Bartow County was actually one of the first counties in the state of Georgia to come up to the plate and match local funds with federal funds that UGA acquired for the SNAP-Education programs. So citizens of Bartow County, they've really reaped the benefits of this investment."

Formerly referred to as Food Stamps, SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Presented at various locations, Bartow County SNAP-Ed offers four or six complimentary one-hour classes to equip participants with tools to make healthier food choices. Since 2016, Bartow has presented Food Talk classes to more than 560 people.

"Our program technically started when I was hired back in 2015,” said SNAP-Ed Supervisor Alexis Roberts, family and consumer sciences agent for the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office. “With county support, I was tasked with starting the Bartow County SNAP-Ed program. … We started with [community partners — Bartow Family Resources and Allatoona Resource Center]. In our first year, we were able to reach about 188 participants, and we didn't even really start classes until February or March.

"… So what did we accomplish in the last three years? … We've actually grown to have 24 community partnerships throughout our county, which is pretty awesome. We have a graduation rate of about 57 percent. … We were also chosen to pilot Feed Talk Better: U. So that's our [new] curriculum that we actually just started this year. That's a little more physical activity based. We're the sole county in the state chosen to pilot that new program. That's just a testament to our program and also to our community that they brought that to us, and we have that wonderful opportunity. Then lastly, in the last two and a half years through this programming, we've been able to reach over 560 participants throughout the county."

Addressing those gathered at the luncheon, Kim Lewis — Bartow Family Resources' Babies & More director — relayed comments from a former SNAP-Ed participant.

"[She] loved it and graduated and got her certificate," Lewis said. "We were talking on the way over … and I said, 'tell me some things that you would want me to share]. She said, 'It was so much fun, it was affordable … and [the recipes] are quick.' She didn't have to stay in the kitchen for two or three hours putting these things together. So Sylvia really, really appreciates the program."

For more information on Bartow County SNAP-Ed, contact the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office at 770-387-5142 or visit http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices/bartow.html.