August 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW3

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Impacts of Family Nutrition Classes Taught to Food Stamp Recipients in Grant/Adams Area of Washington State

Impacts of family nutrition classes taught to Food Stamp recipients in Grant/Adams area of Washington state describes the nutrition program used to educate the Hispanic migrant population in rural central Washington. It describes the survey process used for a comprehensive evaluation and the results obtained. The impacts showed a high level of retention on items related to budgeting and the need for more clarification of the Food Guide Pyramid as it relates to their culture. The participants were able to make nutrition judgement decisions.

Betty J. Meloy
Family Living Agent
Grant/Adams Area
Washington State University Extension
Ephrata, Washington
Internet address:

The Washington State University (WSU) Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program in the Grant/Adams area targets Hispanic Food Stamp recipients. Grant and Adams counties are a rural area in the center of Washington state and the farm land is irrigated by water from Grand Coulee Dam. In the past decade, the area experienced an influx of Spanish-speaking persons, mostly employed in agriculture-related jobs. This has greatly increased cultural diversity in the counties and the need for educational programs in Spanish.

The United States Department of Agriculture/Department of Social and Health Services Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program grant was received for the fiscal year of October 1, 1993- September 30, 1994, and each year since. The Washington State Family Nutrition Program goal is to provide practical culturally- sensitive information to food stamp recipients on nutrition, food buying, food safety and handling, and food budgeting.

A bilingual (Spanish-English) nutrition assistant was hired and trained by the Grant/Adams Area family living agent. The assistant began teaching classes in February 1994. Class content and structure varies according to the people attending. Normal sessions are 1-2 hour classes once a week for six weeks. Concession is made for class members who have limitations on time.

Data about the program have been collected through a variety of ways. Evaluation methods include written responses to 3-to-5 open-ended questions, oral-based questions asked by the instructor, and broad-based questions asking participants to list a number of important things they learned.

A comprehensive evaluation survey was conducted between August 1 and October 15, 1996, by a bilingual WSU summer minority intern. The goal was to research impacts (changes in behavior) the educational program had on the people taking four or more of the six session classes on family nutrition. The intern first compiled a list of 38 interview questions with the help of the family living agent. Questions were asked in both English and Spanish. Thirty-five were multiple choice and three were open- ended questions. (The open-ended questions were left blank in about half the surveys.)

The six session classes had 316 participants during the two years of the program. Class members lived in seven towns of the Grant/Adams area. Of the 125 people who gave home numbers and/or street addresses when they registered for the classes, the intern was able to locate and interview 46. The more time since the class, the harder it was to locate participants.

Survey questions were divided into the categories of Information on Scheduling Classes, Budgeting, Unit Pricing, Food Safety, Nutrition, and Food Pyramid.

Participants gave the following information about class scheduling. They heard most often about the classes through the Family Food Program and family members. They liked classes at schools. They preferred classes on weekdays over Saturdays with Wednesday being the most popular weekday. Evenings were the preferred class time and the six two-hour classes were preferred.

Answers to budgeting questions showed a high level of retention. Although the nutrition questions could have been better written, answers showed retention and the ability to make judgment decisions. The unit pricing questions showed participants could choose the unit with the lowest price. The food safety questions showed excellent retention with nearly all questions answered correctly. The Food Guide Pyramid questions showed a need to spend more time in this area.

Impacts of the family nutrition classes was expressed by the class members in answers to the open-ended questions.. "Now I buy store brand food instead of buying name brand." "Now I prepare flour tortillas with oil." "Now I bake breads with whole wheat flour." "Now I make a shopping list." "I learned how to make more healthy snacks for the kids." "I learned how to cook better foods and adding different things to make it healthier." These are examples of a few of the principles taught. The survey questions indicated that most are retaining the information presented. They liked the classes and want more information to help them prepare food quickly, nutritionally, and with good taste.

Demonstrations, videos and hand-outs were the most popular teaching methods. Most put the information received to use in their own families and many also passed it on to family and friends.

The last question asked how much money do you allow for groceries monthly and how many people do you feed? The average spent was $332.44 for a family of six. The range was wide going from $100 for two people to $600 for twelve people.

The results of the survey are being used to help establish and refine future programming, teaching methods and types of delivery to the Hispanic population in the area.