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Collective impact: The Calaveras County experience

The Issue

Statistics can inform us of challenges counties face, but people create solutions. This is well illustrated in Calaveras County, a rural Sierra foothills community. Calaveras residents face many stumbling blocks to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Dogged by high unemployment, the overall food insecurity rate is over 15%, with a rate among children as high as 23%. Other challenges include isolated residential areas with limited public transportation and infrastructure. In addition, the community has experienced natural disasters such as the 2015 Butte Fire, affecting over 12,000 people in the Sierra foothills.

What Has ANR Done?

UC CalFresh and the California Department of Public Health, as USDA-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) partners, have worked shoulder to shoulder with several community organizations in order to build a “collective impact” approach that addresses food insecurity and promotes increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and healthy beverages. This framework facilitates strategic partnerships collaborating to attain common local goals. In rural communities, schools can serve as models of healthy living. Guided by the insights of community members, Calaveras SNAP-Ed programs have developed in a way that speaks to the reality of people’s lives, not statistics. Combining the efforts of staff and resources from SNAP-Ed funded and nonfunded partners, a comprehensive program has been developed to meet common health and wellness objectives and to streamline implementation. In Calaveras County, the school district has prioritized sequential garden-enhanced nutrition education (GENE) from preschool to 6th grade. This service is provided weekly through UC CalFresh, with trained staff from Food Corps, a nonprofit. The local public health department is working with the high school population.

The Payoff

Unifying community assets - creating long-lasting change

UC CalFresh and the local health department's work with Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD), Food Corps and Gardens to Grow In, a local non-profit, has led to a collective impact. Together these organizations have imparted greater sustainability within the community by sharing a common goal, mutually reinforcing activities, and communicating clearly. Through regular meetings, the common goal of “Creating Healthy and Sustainable Systems in Schools” (CHASSIS) was developed to guide decision-making, board policy, and programs. Over the past 3 years, this partnership has implemented garden and nutrition education in all nine CUSD schools, offering Harvest of the Month programs and garden-enhanced lessons to over 2,000 students and their families. This has resulted in the improvement and expansion of eight existing school gardens and the construction of three new school gardens. Additionally, a high school farm has become a productive learning lab.


Supporting Unit: UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program

Andra Nicoli, Program & Evaluation Analyst, UC CalFresh State Office, amnicoli@ucdavis.edu

Hector Ochoa, Program Supervisor, UC CalFresh Calaveras County, hcochoa@ucanr.edu