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Ripple Effect: EFSNE project is instrumental in new collaborations and partnerships

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Posted: November 16, 2015

The community-based work carried out by members of the Consumption Team has had an unintended ripple effect — it has spawned several local-level activities aimed at improving access to healthy and regionally produced foods.
Ripple in a body of water. Credit: Roger McLassus via Wikimedia Commons

Ripple in a body of water. Credit: Roger McLassus via Wikimedia Commons

Onondaga County, NY, is no exception, according to Consumption Team member Kathy Dischner. Dischner is the EFSNE Location Leader for upstate New York and a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Issue Team Leader overseeing nutrition and community food-security programs for Onondaga County and eight other counties across Central New York. Working on several food-related projects at once, she has found areas of overlap and opportunities for leveraging relationships that she has built across projects. For example, she is collaborating on several additional food-security initiatives with the owner of the Syracuse-based supermarket that the project team is studying.

The first of these is an effort to make an existing web-based grocery-delivery service called ROSIE more accessible to people who receive SNAP benefits.

"[Our store owner] was already using the ROSIE technology to deliver groceries to customers who have the means to use credit or debit cards, as the technology requires," said Dischner. "But a significant portion of his customers who would benefit from the service simply can’t access it, since ROSIE isn’t set up to accept SNAP benefits. We’re working to change that, by collaborating with the ROSIE developers to remove the barriers for SNAP recipients."

Another collaboration between Dischner and this store owner is a local implementation of a national program developed by the Share Our Strength campaign called "Cooking Matters at the Store," aimed at improving shoppers' skills around comparing and purchasing healthy food at the store. Dischner and her colleague Roberto Martinez, who also is EFSNE's site leader and community liaison for Onondaga County, conduct hour-long trainings at the grocery store, where they teach participants how to stretch their food dollar, compare unit prices, read food labels, and find whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that fit their budgets. The tours are conducted in both English and Spanish, and each tour concludes with a "$10 challenge," in which participants receive $10 to purchase ingredients to make healthy meals at home following the tours.

These nutrition tours, which began this spring and will occur regularly throughout the summer, served as the kick-off for a third collaboration — a Healthy Shopper Rewards program that links consumers, their doctors, and the store. Developed in a partnership between the store owner, nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital, and other community partners, the project incents healthy food purchases and provides food purchasing data to consumers’ doctors, with the goal of delivering comprehensive nutrition and health education to those who participate.

While all these partnerships and collaborations are distinct from the EFSNE project, Dischner thinks that the project’s presence has, to some extent, inspired them. "I think that because of the store owner’s engagement with the entire EFSNE team, his interest in bringing healthier foods into his supermarket has increased," she said.

The Syracuse community where Dischner and her CCE colleagues work is just one of 13 communities where the EFSNE team is conducting its site-based research. More information about other communities that the Consumption Team is studying is available here.

-- by Kristen Devlin