Texting Programs in SNAP-Ed

Text2BHealthy image

Creating a text message based program has shown to be a non-conventional way to provide nutrition education to SNAP-Ed participants.  There are many programs across the country that have implemented a text message program in their state.  This is a list of programs that has been shared with the CoP with a general description of their current texting program and program contact information.

Alabama SNAP-Ed at Auburn University 

Alabama SNAP-Ed at Auburn University uses text messaging to engage parents of 3rd graders in a school-based obesity prevention initiative, Body Quest. Each year, parents of 3rd graders participating in Body Quest are invited to join the Recipe Tester Club for Body Quest Parents. Simultaneously with the 15-week Body Quest intervention with 3rd graders, parents receive a series of inexpensive, simple and kid-friendly vegetable recipes to prepare and “test” with their children at home. Parents provide their cell phone numbers on consent forms and are enrolled to receive text messages. Parents are sent action-oriented texts three times each week. Text messages include tips for improving personal and family eating, shopping and physical activity practices.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 4,348 parents were enrolled to receive texts using SMS messaging software, SimpleTexting. To coincide with Body Quest activities in schools, parents were assigned to treatment and control groups. Treatment parents (n = 2,394) had 3rd graders in the treatment group of Body Quest receiving obesity prevention education in school. Control parents (n = 1,954) had 3rd graders in the control group of Body Quest receiving delayed intervention after pre- and post-assessments were completed.

At the end of Body Quest, 54% of original treatment parents continued to receive texts through the initiative and participated in a post-survey texting poll. Parents texted responses to a series of questions and gave feedback on their experience with Body Quest and the Recipe Tester Club.

Alabama texting graphic

For more information, contact Katie Funderburk, MS, RD (kem0017@auburn.edu).

Colorado Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP)

The Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP), and The Culture of Wellness in Preschools (COWP) are programs through the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Public Health.  We provide a creative and fun way for kids to learn about healthy eating in their classroom and to share what they learn with their families. Parent engagement is very important to our program.  As part of our efforts to engage parents, staff, and community members, we are developing a free text messaging program. The major themes of our messages will be Healthy Eating Behaviors, Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behaviors, Healthy, Parent Engagement, Feeding Relationship, and Food Resource Management.

Text2BHealthy will be launched this month in approximately 45 elementary schools statewide, and 65 early childhood sites.  We will be working on multiple outreach efforts to continue enrolling parents into the program. If you have any questions feel free to contact Maria Saldana, maria.saldana@ucdenver.edu, or Julie Atwood, julie.atwood@ucdenver.edu

Health mPowers (Implementing Agency in GA)

HeathMPowers provides text messages to families of students in grades K-5 as part of the elementary school-based SNAP-Ed program, Empowering Healthy Choices in Schools, Homes and Communities. Families opt in to the initiative by texting a designated keyword to HealthMPowers. Participating families receive bi-weekly nutrition and physical activity tips, recipes and additional resources for shopping on a budget and being active as a family.  The messages are tied to monthly nutrition and physical activity themes, and weekly activities students are learning in the classroom through a nutrition and physical activity day planner provided to each child.   The texts, available in English or Spanish, provide consistent messaging across grade levels and reinforce key behaviors.

During the 2016-2017 school year, 1041 families were enrolled.  In September 2017, 916 families re-enrolled to continue receiving the text messages during the upcoming 2017-18 school year. Some did not re-enroll because their child had moved on to middle school. To date, there are over 1300 families enrolled in the texting initiative.

HealthMPowers also started a texting pilot for Early Care and Education during the 2017-18 school year. These text messages correspond to the themes used in the elementary texts, but are tailored to the needs and information for families of pre-school children. In addition, early care teachers receive the texts along with resources and strategies to reinforce the weekly messages in the classroom.

For more information, contact Kendall Charlton at Kendall.Charlton@healthmpowers.org.

Maryland Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE)

Maryland developed Text2BHealthy in January 2012 as an indirect method of reaching parents with nutrition education. Text2BHealthy is a text message program targeting parents of elementary school students who are currently receiving classroom-based nutrition education.  Text2BHealthy provides parents with “nutrition nudges” 2-3 times per week on nutrition-related school and community activities, grocery store specials, and physical activity ideas. Messages are targeted and focus on encouraging families to take action and specific to the individuals school and community.

Text2BHealthy currently has 29 schools participating  across the state of Maryland and has over 2100 parents enrolled.

Text4HealthyTots is a text message based program in Maryland that is targeting parents of children ages 3-5. Messages give parents tips for feeding their children fruits and vegetables, healthy meal and recipe ideas, trying new foods, and being active as a family. Parents will receive 1-2 messages per week with ideas that relate to the time of year and often link to our blog, website, and Facebook page for more information.

Maryland uses Mobile Messaging by Upland Software as their software platform for sending messages.  For more information, contact Laryessa Worthington  lengland@umd.edu.

Michigan State University Extension
Michigan State University Extension has two small texting programs. One aims to provide parents with quick actionable tips, as well as recipes related to nutrition and being healthy as a family. This project began in September and we have 37 participants. Originally, we tried to solely recruit through our Healthier Child Care Environments PSE initiative and had minimal participants. Then we shared information about it on social media, which is how the majority of the participants were recruited. Two text messages are sent out each week – one actionable tip and one recipe.

The other text program MSU Extension has is for Flint parents who have been impacted by the Flint Water Crisis to provide them with recipes and tips for using their food assistance benefits effectively. There are 141 participants who receive about 1 text message a week. Less frequently, as they occur, we send community events and resources that are available to the residents. We recruited at community events beginning in June.

MSU Extension uses the free platform, Remind, to deliver both of these initiatives. Remind allows for scheduling of messages in advance, shows how many people received the message, and also how many read it. It also allows the participants to react (“like”) a message and you can also set up two-way communication if desired. While you can do all of these things, the analytics are not displayed readily; you have to look at each message individually. Remind is user-friendly, able to be managed by multiple people, and many of our participants are familiar with the program because a lot of teachers use it to communicate with parents.

For more information, contact Erin Powell, MS RD LDN at powelle9@anr.msu.edu.

Rhode Island SNAP-Ed at University of Rhode Island

Rhode Island SNAP-Ed has incorporated text messaging into its programming since 2015. RI SNAP-Ed successfully utilizes text messaging with participants in two primary ways: as reminder texts for upcoming SNAP-Ed programming, and as motivational reinforcers at the conclusion of series programming. Reminder texts have increased in popularity for both farmers’ market events (now year-round) and series workshops. Motivational texts serve as continuation of nutrition education after in-person programs have been completed; these are customized to either adult or parent audience and are delivered twice per week for four weeks, followed by a final survey to assess post-text behavior change. Texts are personalized to include the initial of the program leader and are offered in English and Spanish. Participants sign consent forms in order to be enrolled.

In FY2017, RI SNAP-Ed sent out a total of 2,738 texts, up 49% from the previous year. Breakdown of text type was as follows: 35% of texts to Adults for adult education reinforcement; 12% to Parents for parent education reinforcement; 38% went as reminders of upcoming farmers’ markets and other events; 13% contained links for post-text evaluation survey; and 2% of texts were interactions with participants e.g. replies to texts.

Contact Kate Balestracci, MS RD at katebal12@uri.edu for more information.  

Rhode Island Sample Text messages

Washington State University Extension

Reaching Rural Parents in New Ways: TEXTING!

As part of the Communication Initiative, Text2BHealthy (T2BH) was piloted to increase access to adults through 16 participating schools that serve as community hubs in rural settings. Participants were recruited via direct events at the beginning and middle of the school year, as well as indirectly via posters, flyers, and the school websites.

WA State Texting infographic
2,185 targeted behavioral text messages resulted in 331 participants receiving 27,111 indirect contacts over 42 weeks.

Customized texts included the following themes:

Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan Counties:  Physical activity, fruits and vegetables in season at local fresh markets, and tasty low cost recipes.

Grays Harbor, Skagit Counties: Physical activity, local sales where SNAP clients shop, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and reinforce direct education topics.

Behavioral Outcomes include:

  • 71% increased physical activity
  • 76% ate more fruit and vegetables
  • 55% saved money at the grocery store
  • 56% prepared and served text-linked recipes
Related Framework Indicators:  Healthy Eating Behaviors (MT1), Food Resource Management (MT2), Physical Activity (MT3), Physical activity and Reduced Sedentary Behavior (MT4), Nutrition Supports (MT5), Physical Activity Supports (MT6)
Socio-Ecological Framework:  Individual/Family, Social and Cultural Norms and Values, Environmental Settings
Approaches: Indirect Education; Systems Change

The texting platform that WA State Extension used to send their text messages was Twilio.  For more information, contact Kathleen Manenica at manenica@wsu.edu