(The following is a USDA Blog post from March 13, 2015 about University of Maryland Extension's Text2BHealthy program. Read another recent article about the program here:)
We all benefit from creative partnership. It’s especially true when some very savvy people leverage USDA Food and Nutrition Service programs to fight hunger and improve nutrition. Text2BHealthy is one such example, where the University of Maryland-led program uses popular technology to inspire healthy eating habits for low-income families.
Established three years ago by the University of Maryland Extension, Text2BHealthy links in-school nutrition programs to healthy behaviors at home. Using USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education funds to underwrite the program, text messages are sent to parents about nutrition lessons, food tastings, and events taking place during the school day. The messages also highlight seasonal foods and recipes, as well as ways to create healthy meals at home. It even helps identify sales on local fruits and vegetables!
“Text2BHealthy is a wonderful way to effectively reach busy parents with a nutrition education program,” says Lisa Lachenmayr, Director of University of Maryland’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education. “This program works. Families are eating healthier and parents report how much they love receiving the text messages!”
Parents can sign up for Text2BHealthy at back-to-school events, parent nights, and other school functions. Lachenmayr says the personalized text messages resonate with parents who crave a more personal touch and appreciate the targeted messages about their child’s school.
The program works by connecting local school nutrition educators with parents. The Text2BHealthy team alerts parents on what their child is learning at participating elementary schools, connects parents to community events, and identifies resources to reinforce healthy nutrition and physical activity. The texts, offered in Spanish when requested, include specific lessons, recipes, nutrition tips and physical activity ideas to implement at home. Messages read like this one: “Some Crellin ES students had a nutrition lesson & tried Pumpkin Parfaits. All students got a newsletter with the recipe. Try this healthy treat @ home!”
The Text2BHealthy team uses a survey tool to gauge success. Individual school reports and data confirm the program has instilled healthier behaviors among its participants. It’s an exciting partnership that helps drive real behavioral change for children and their families, while offering a clear path to a healthier next generation.