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UC CalFresh improves the home food environment of low-income Hispanic families

The Issue

Low-income Hispanic families are at high risk for poor health outcomes related to diet. Because the home food environment can have a major impact on food choices made by children and extended family members,the University of California CalFresh Nutrition Education Program offers lessons in nutrition and resource management to food stamp-eligible Hispanic families.

What Has ANR Done?

UC CalFresh has reached more than 526 adults with families in 2010-2011 in Santa Clara County.

Eat Smart Be Active is the adult curriculum for UC CalFresh in Santa Clara County. Its purpose is to improve the quality and availability of healthy foods at home. Members of the nutrition education staff conduct annual evaluations with the goal of improving culturally relevant outcomes of the UC CalFresh adult program in Santa Clara County.

In a new evaluation project, UC researchers interviewed participants in their homes and did before and after food inventories to measure the efficacy of a three-class series focused on shopping, resource management, food safety and a healthy diet. The small pilot study conducted by UC Cooperative Extension staff members Susan Algert and Carmen Simmons documented changes in the home food environment in five Hispanic families participating in the Eat Smart Be Active educational classes. Four families not participating in the classes were also recruited for the project as a control group. All children were participating in UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education lessons in school.

The Payoff

UC CalFresh helps families stretch food dollars to buy healthier foods

UC CalFresh helped all families in the intervention group improve the quality and quantity of foods found at home. The changes in behavior reported to be most effective in helping to stretch food dollars included: making a shopping list, planning menus, shopping less often and using leftovers. Participants used savings to purchase additional healthy foods such as whole wheat bread. Results from the food inventory indicate that the majority of families made the following changes in the home food environment after completing the classes: increased fruit and vegetable variety by 30 percent, increased the amount of fresh fruit by 30 percent and increased the use of whole wheat bread by 100 percent. In comparison to the control group, women in the intervention group had younger children, were less likely to be single and had less soda and fewer high fat, high sugar processed foods in the home— an interesting finding worth future investigation.

Clientele Testimonial

"Before, the money that I received from food stamps was always short. Now I am doing better. The money is lasting longer. I would like to thank the program because I learned very much about how to stretch my food dollar until the end of the month, something I couldn’t do before."


Supporting Unit: Santa Clara County

Susan Algert, (408) 282-3104, salgert@ucdavis.edu
Carmen Simmons and Gretchen Sullivan