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Handing out food at food pantry

By using methods taught through SNAP-Ed, Karen Howle-Hurst, SNAP-Ed educator in Etowah County, helped members of the Salvation Army Church in Gadsden, turn their health around with SNAP-Ed’s Live Well Faith Communities initiative.

Live Well Faith Communities is a comprehensive health promotion program designed to help faith community members adopt healthy lifestyles. Members work together to create health-promoting environments at their facilities and at weekly gatherings.

Before COVID-19, Howle-Hurst taught nine lessons with hands-on cooking experiences and physical activity to the faith community members. Thanks to the program and Howle-Hurst’s leadership, the group began serving a variety of healthy options at congregate meals. At the same time, the congregation stopped offering sugary beverages, and instead made water freely available at all events and gatherings. These changes helped make the healthy choice the easy choice for 105 weekly churchgoers.

Six months later, members were still excited about the program and the changes they had made. According to Howle-Hurst, several people lost weight. One member shared that she lost 30 pounds and felt less pain and inflammation and tells as many people as possible about her lifestyle change. Howle-Hurst said the church even extended an open invitation after trying out several Live Well Alabama recipes.

“I was invited to come back anytime to share new recipes,” she said.

COVID-19

Howle-Hurst said the work of SNAP-Ed is always pertinent but even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the change in available resources to the public, she said educators have had to learn to adjust their programming from face-to-face interactions to sharing resources and connecting with people virtually. She said she’s leaned on social media more heavily since March.

“Even during these times, when community partners were hard to reach, I was able to use social media to stay in touch, sharing need-to-know information,” Howle-Hurst said. “I spent a great deal of time this summer working remotely, teaching and sharing resources — spending more time on a laptop than on the road.”

She said a bright spot about working virtually was that it allowed her to find innovative ways to reach her audience.

“If I had to pick one word about our work the past few months, it would be ‘pivot,’” Howle-Hurst said.

To contact Karen, SNAP-Ed educator in Etowah County, call 256-547-7936 or email her at kzh0071@aces.edu.

Karen Howle Hurst

Karen Howle-Hurst, SNAP-Ed educator in Etowah County

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