Auburn University-Alabama
Cooperative Extension System
Project Summary

Project Title: Organizations Networking with Extension to Increase Participation (ONE-TIP)

Alabama had 19 consistently poor counties according to the data from the Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center (RCPNC), and Marengo was one of those counties. The ONE-TIP proposal was submitted to the RCPNC to address needs in Marengo County, Alabama. This project is being led by Alabama Extension and is driven by a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget; Teach me and I may remember, Involve me and I’ll understand.” The quote encouraged the involvement of those being assessed and the need for sustainability in Marengo County. The overall goal of the project is to improve program coordination among various nutrition assistance programs in Marengo County. This project will involve Extension staff, local agencies, local nutrition programs, local schools, and parents.

During our initial assessment, there was great involvement from the community in completing surveys. The role played by all those in the community was instrumental in reaching many of our youths and adults. The youth/children surveys were collected at summer camps, 4-H programs, summer feeding sites, and football practice at the high schools. The adult surveys were completed at community centers, summer feeding sites, summer 4-H programs, and community participants of Marengo county. The information gathered will serve as our baseline to understand the generalized thoughts of youths and adults of the community as it pertains to summer feeding programs and programs offered by the schools. Some of the barriers noted to nutrition assistance were: some centers served hot foods at their summer feeding sites, some centers served cold foods at their summer feeding sites, low parental involvement in encouraging the children to participate in the summer feedings, competition among the feeding sites, children not having transportation to the feeding sites, and the social stigma associated with being involved in the summer feeding programs or free and reduced school-based programs.

Program strategies to address barriers to program enrollment will be identified in the community forums. All participants will feel empowered by the conversations as they will have input to aid in the conversation that is facilitated by the David Mathews Center (DMC) for Civic Life. “Changing the way people talk can change the way they relate to each other and their problems- and that can eventually change the community” – David Mathews. We will follow a national initiative of the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC). When examining the civic health of Alabama, we were forced to review three indicators: political action, social connectedness, and public work. We must first identify what the perceived barriers are for participation before they can be addresses. The DMC will conduct a one-day Moderator Development Workshop which will feature an abbreviated forum, an interactive discussion of moderating techniques and practices, and a mock forum for participants to practice their newly developed moderating and recording skills. DMC staff will use the DMC Moderator Development Handbook to guide the workshop experience. The DMC will guide the conversation to collect thoughts on information and awareness, physical access, community resources, and social stigmas. Organizations will work towards common themes of marketing, sharing resources, identify common goals and outcomes, standardize an enrollment form requesting only the needed information, and methods for enrollment that are simplified. The workshop is part of the Coaching Community Innovation (CCI) which is designed to improve citizens’ capacities to make innovative decisions, secure commitments to act together, and learn from experiences. With the collaboration of community teams and the sharing of ideas, the county will begin to gather thoughts of the community to address the lack of participation in child nutrition programs. We will also hear from the children in the community. The DMC will conduct a Students’ Institute. We would incorporate youth in a Students' Institute style program in Marengo county. The Students’ Institute provides youth a structured opportunity to deepen their understanding of active citizenship, explore assets and challenges in their community, and develop skills for more effective civic engagement. We will focus on strengthening the community's future with the youth. The students will be asked to map their community’s assets and challenges around food issues. Then, the students will work on identifying possible solutions, especially solutions that involve youth. The youth will work with their schools, community leaders, etc. to develop a project relative to this issue. We could also encourage the youth to participate with the adults in the community forums. This is when a collective effort from public work would yield a message from the community to the community. Billboards and marketing materials will be created that are specific to Marengo County.

This project will target the summer feeding programs and the school’s breakfast and free and reduced lunch programs. Our efforts in the community are focused on understanding the barriers and increasing the enrollment. This project is taking a community approach to involve community members as part of the solution to increase participation in the nutrition assistance programs of Marengo County.

Targeted Nutrition Assistance Programs: SBP, NSLP, and the SFSP