SNEB members respond to COVID-19 pandemic with creativity and resilience

Posted by: Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD on Thursday, April 23, 2020

SNEB members respond to COVID-19 pandemic with creativity and resilience

Dear SNEB members,

In this unprecedented, stressful and, for far too many, tragic time, it is uplifting to hear how our SNEB community is responding to the range of challenges this pandemic has brought about. As always, SNEB members are revealing their strength, creativity and resilience. Academics have pivoted quickly to teaching and advising online. Researchers are devising alternative ways to carry on with their investigations and even coming up with new questions to pursue in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Graduate committees are holding thesis defenses virtually. Job candidates are interviewing via Zoom. Practitioners have adjusted program delivery so their important nutrition education work can continue, and many are taking on new areas of work.

Here is just a small sampling of the ways in which SNEB members are rising to the current challenge. We invite you to share more on SNEEZE!

SNEB President-elect Pam Koch shares that the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy in the country’s coronavirus epicenter has responded in several ways. The online course, Teaching Food and Nutrition for All, was offered free of charge. The course guides K–12 teachers to create and implement research-informed food and nutrition education including cooking, gardening, food system analysis and food justice. The response indicates enormous interest and need with the 500 spots available filling in just a few days.

The Center is also maintaining a database on How School Districts are Feeding Students Through Closures that provides up-to-date information on how school meals are continuing in various ways across the United States, created a best practices guide for Serving Students During the Coronavirus, and maintains an active blog by posting relevant information.

Karen Ensle shares that the Rutgers University Family & Community Health Sciences Department is offering “Healthy On-the-Job Selfcare,” a 12-week online program for employers; a 24-week “Get Moving, Get Healthy at Home” online program for parents and families; and a text message “Live Well, Stay Healthy” program that families can access online by smartphone, tablet or computer.

New Jersey WIC has received a waiver so that all WIC appointments can be conducted via phone and the approved WIC food list can be expanded to assist WIC clients in purchasing the food they need and use benefits before they expire. To further reduce in-person contact (and potential virus spread), benefit checks are being mailed to WIC clients. In person breastfeeding counseling continues, when feasible, with the appropriate protective measures with follow-up via phone.

SNEB member Lynn Fredericks of FamilyCook Productions provides a great example of adapting to virtual nutrition education by providing her “Teen Battle Chef” program online. As part of her work at Leah's Pantry, Adrienne Markworth has helped put together a list of COVID-19 food distribution resources.

Though Barbara Storper of FoodPlay Productions, can't send out her live shows to schools right now, she's created fun nutrition videos and will be offering free links on her organization's Facebook page. She's also creating an "Ask ToBe Fit, Ace Food Detective" section for kids and families to send in their questions and get answers about food and nutrition, as well as provide detective cases for kids to solve. 

Director-at-Large and ACPP liaison Sheila Fleischhacker has written or co-written numerous articles, including for the New England Journal of MedicineThe Hill and Nutrition Today. She also helped initiate an ad hoc COVID-19 nutrition implications joint working group for the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN), a CDC thematic research network; and Healthy Eating Research (HER), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Joan Paddock, interim director of Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Food and Nutrition Education in Community Program, reports, “Staff are doing a wonderful job dreaming up ways to share information through all channels – websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not a surprise that we have clever, innovative people out there doing the best they can!” Some staff are posting food pictures and recipes, developing short food demo videos and developing “PSA-like mini nutrition lessons." "They are a creative bunch," says Joan.

In short, practitioners are carrying on with their nutrition education programs through whatever means available. In thinking about the nutrition educators continuing to implement programs across New York State, Joan reflects on how important our profession and our programs are, “especially in a time of national disasters."

We couldn’t agree more. Food knowledge we consider important – food selection, storage, home preparation, safe food handling, meal planning, etc. – has now become critical. The people who are providing food and nutrition information, motivating and facilitating behavior change by adjusting existing programs, are needed now more than ever. In addition to carrying on critical nutrition education programming, several of our members are working directly with efforts to meet food needs of children who ordinarily count on school being a source of much-needed sustenance at both breakfast and lunch.

In crisis, there is opportunity. For SNEB, this unprecedented moment offers us an opportunity to elevate the importance of our profession, food, nutrition, food system and policy advocacy knowledge, and the skills we have to offer. In addition to grasping this opportunity as best we can, we also need to recognize this time is difficult and take care of ourselves and our families. For SNEB members with school-age children at home when they would otherwise be at school, this is a particularly challenging time.

We hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy.

Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD
SNEB President

Pam Koch, EdD, RD
SNEB President-Elect

Jasia Steinmetz, PhD, RD
SNEB Vice President

Rachel Daeger, CAE, IOM
SNEB Executive Director