CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Imperial County improves health by being first in Imperial County to pivot to online nutrition education

Jul 23, 2020

CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Imperial County improves health by being first in Imperial County to pivot to online nutrition education

Jul 23, 2020

Teacher adopts CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Imperial County pilot of online nutrition education to promote healthy living during COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place 


The Issue

Imperial County is located in the rural Sonoran Desert with 181,000 residents. Sixty (60) out of 66 schools qualify for SNAP-Ed services in the County. In the town of El Centro at De Anza Magnet Elementary School, 55% of 5th graders and 47% of 7th graders are overweight (ED-Data, 2018). When the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic first surfaced in the County, the 16 School Districts reacted initially by closing school sites to those not enrolled, this includes parent visitors and CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Imperial County (CFHL, UCCE).

Partnership collaboration can spawn innovation, especially during times of uncertainty. During the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery of direct education lessons in schools has required a major pivot to an online platform for CalFresh Healthy Living, UC programs in California. An example of this is displayed in the Imperial County pilot experience.

How UC Delivers

CFHL, UCCE began a partnership with De Anza Magnet Elementary School's Special Day Class in 2017 by piloting garden-enhanced nutrition education. Over the past 3 years, the partnership has grown to include activities in CATCH PE, and nutrition education. This relationship culminated with Special Day Class teacher, Carmen Hernandez, and the CFHL, UCCE team pilot testing a remote lesson delivery of My Amazing Body, a nutrition curriculum, due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place requirements. 

CFHL, UCCE Imperial County collaboratively structured the 30 minute interactive lesson with Mrs. Hernandez.

My Amazing Body, Lesson 3 “Germs are not for Sharing” which highlights handwashing/hygiene, getting enough sleep, eating right, and being physically active to stay healthy was pilot tested with 16 students from 3rd and 4th grade. CFHL, UCCE Imperial County started the presentation with an introduction of the lesson and a Google Map, indicating the location of the school and CFHL, UCCE offices. Mrs. Hernandez then read “Germs Are Not For Sharing” utilizing YouTube. After the reading, CFHL, UCCE Nutrition Educators facilitated a discussion of the book on Zoom, followed by an interactive PowerPoint highlighting simple strategies to be, and stay, healthy. CFHL, UCCE staff finished the lesson with an online physical activity break for students and teachers.

This My Amazing Body pilot illustrates a strategic approach to direct education delivery online.

The Impact 

As a result of this partnership, a new form of education was adopted by a De Anza Magnet Elementary School teacher as the first online direct nutrition education class delivered during the pandemic. My Amazing Body is an evidence-based curriculum that has been evaluated across counties and can lead to behavior changes such as students identifying healthy foods, being willing to try new foods, bringing healthy snacks to school, and washing hands before handling food. This pilot also illustrates how online delivery can be a tool to not only reach but potentially expand programmatic delivery in environments with high numbers of SNAP-Ed eligible populations that may otherwise not be served due to limited staffing. This lends an opportunity for CFHL, UCCE Imperial County staff to increase capacity to target the most vulnerable areas in our large, rural county by reaching multiple classrooms with one presentation, and creates the potential to serve more schools and communities that staff would otherwise be unable to reach. COVID-19 rates are increasing (Imperial County Public Health Department) which may require more pivots to online education to meet the needs of schools and families. Healthy eating behaviors can lead to a decreased risk of chronic health diseases and thus, this example demonstrates how CFHL, UCCE partnerships contribute to health for all and promotes healthy families and communities during this pandemic.

I really enjoyed it! The students were engaged! It was something different and I would want to do it again. They loved it! – Carmen Hernandez, Special Day Class teacher, De Anza Magnet Elementary School

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