Live Well Alabama
Jennifer Palmer uses her role as a SNAP-Ed educator to make tangible changes in the community she serves. In the past two years, she’s been integral in establishing programs at the Lawrence County Farmers Market and a community garden with a local food pantry.
In May 2018, Palmer helped start a voucher program with her local farmers market while simultaneously engaging children with healthy food.
Palmer helped start the Power of Produce (POP), a voucher program through the Famer’s Market Coalition for the Lawrence County Farmers Market. To fund the project, Palmer and her Alabama Extension colleagues solicited donations from local businesses, including the Rotary Club and Modern Woodmen of America.
On market days, Palmer conducted recipe demonstrations and nutrition education activities to encourage kids to sample healthy recipes. In exchange for a taste, she awarded kids with $2 vouchers to spend on fresh produce at the farmers market.
According to Palmer, the Power of Produce program increases children’s exposure and willingness to try new foods through games, food demonstrations, and face-to-face interactions with farmers.
“In addition to helping families, this effort helped farmers sell more produce,” Palmer said. “It created a fun reason for more families to come to the market together.”
When COC Food Pantry in Moulton began to operate in late 2018, Palmer worked to build a relationship between SNAP-Ed and eventually establish a community garden.
The managers of the COC Food Pantry, Marcus Echols and Lashundra Craig, started their pantry to meet the needs of residents in the area, serving a free Christmas dinner in 2018. Palmer said the partnership with SNAP-Ed began with providing Live Well Alabama recipes to the pantry’s clients, implementing signage, and performing food demos. Soon, Echols and Craig began to desire a community garden for residents to learn to grow their own food.
Palmer facilitated this relationship by getting local donations from the Home Depot, Red Land Cotton, and LouAllen Farms. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System laid the groundwork for this garden effort.
In the garden’s first year of harvest, 120 pounds of produce was shared with the clients at the food pantry. Palmer’s recent involvement includes teaching pantry clients about nutrition and conducting recipe demonstrations to help them incorporate garden produce into their diets.
Craig said she is hopeful about the possibilities this garden will continue to bring.
“The COC garden has helped so many in the community. People are glad to get fresh vegetables from the garden that would be too expensive for them to buy,” she said.
Palmer said the teamwork from the Extension team helped pave the way for the garden to be successful.
“This garden would not have come together without support from Allyson Shabel, Urban Regional Extension Agent, and Lawrence County Extension Coordinator, Donna Shanklin,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the COC Food Pantry, also known as “The Kitchen,” has transitioned to a drive-thru pantry. Clients can pull their vehicles outside of the pantry, and a box of food will be brought to them with limited contact between individuals. Additionally, the pantry has received a fresh produce grant, which will allow them to provide fresh produce to clients throughout the summer.
As for the garden, Palmer said the team is working on planning for fall 2020.
Palmer said she loves being able to talk to people in the community through her role as a SNAP-Ed educator. She said the relationships she’s formed by giving out recipes and promoting healthy eating would stay with her for a long time.
“I am very blessed to have this job as a SNAP-ED educator,” she said. “The need for more food resources definitely increased during this COVID-19 pandemic, and many people that felt secure lost jobs and needed more help from food pantries. I am so glad that I could share recipes, resources, and information with them.”
To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.