Roles of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Accompanying Education Programs in the Health and Nutrition of the Food Insecure, a Lecture By Dr. Debra Palmer, Ph.D., March 26, 2014
Dr. Debra M. Palmer’s research in nutrition involves issues regarding household food insecurity; the evaluation of innovative methods of providing nutrition education; and incorporating physical activity education into nutrition education venues. As a member of the Nutrition Sciences faculty, Dr. Palmer teaches several graduate level courses on community nutrition. Additionally, Dr. Palmer oversees two statewide nutrition education programs targeted toward limited-resource, diverse, urban audiences (NJ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education SNAP-Ed) and the NJ Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Dr. Palmer also is a member of a Multi-State Research Project on the topic of omega-3 consumption, for which she is leading the development and testing of a USDA consumer website on this project.
Dr. Palmer will discuss the roles of the two programs she directs on the nutrition awareness of the urban populations in New Jersey served by the programs. Dr. Palmer assigned two article to be read in preparation for her discussion:
Dinour LM, Bergen D, Yeh MC.
The food insecurity-obesity paradox: a review of the literature and the role food stamps may play.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Nov;107(11):1952-61.
Metallinos-Katsaras E, Must A, Gorman K.
A longitudinal study of food insecurity on obesity in preschool children.
J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Dec;112(12):1949-58.
(You will need to obtain the full article through Rutgers Libraries)
Dr. Palmer’s Lecture:
As described in her research interests above, Dr. Palmer is an amazing health professional whose life’s work is to help lower income people have better health through improved nutrition. But even more interesting is Dr. Palmer’s own life story and educational path to become a Professor at Rutgers University.
Dr. Debra Palmer grew up in the inner city of Cincinnati, Ohio. She realized that she needed to go to college in order to break out of the cycle of poverty and, as a single mother, to give her son a better life and insurance (he was asthmatic). Dr. Palmer went to college for aerospace engineering. During this time she needed food stamps to supplement her and her son’s diets. After obtaining her undergraduate degree, Debra taught physics and chemistry in high school in inner city schools. During this time, Dr. Palmer came to the conclusion that most inner city children had no idea how to successfully navigate modern society and she decided to change her educational goals to specifically help the children of the inner city.
Dr. Palmer obtained 2 Master degrees, one in Education and the other in Nutrition. And later she went on to obtain a Ph.D. degree in Nutrition from Penn State University. During her Ph.D. studies, Dr. Palmer became familiar with government programs that were designed to help prevent hunger in the poor. One of them was Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed, this was the education portion of the program formerly known as the food stamp nutrition education program (FSNE)). The other program was the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). This program was specifically designed to help provide nutrition education to families with children.
After Dr. Palmer graduated with her Ph.D. and moved to New Jersey for a faculty position in Nutrition, she set about using her knowledge to bring SNAP-Ed to New Jersey, and to make these government educations programs efficient and helpful to the populations in New Jersey they were meant to serve. Having grown up in the inner city and having received food stamps while she was in college, Dr. Palmer was aware of the special problems that face poor people in urban areas.
Her strategy included three major operational tracts:
1) She studied the Federal laws so that the State of New Jersey could obtain the maximal amount of funds for nutrition education from the different legislation bills passed by Congress.
2) Dr. Palmer used her knowledge of the difficulties of urban city living to develop effective educational tools and plans. This has even progressed to the the production of educational videos that promote healthy practices, such as exercising at home. See http://www.snaped4me.org
3) Finally, Dr. Palmer hired and trained an army of people from the different communities all over the state (people with high school diplomas (but not bachelor degrees)) and trained them to teach in the community, and along the way, to become successful Rutgers University employees, who were eligible to take college classes in order to work toward college degrees. Over the last 10 years she estimates she has obtained a 66% success rate in hiring competent and loyal community workers for her programs.
Dr. Palmer further discussed her unique insights into how these federal programs help as many people as possible attain proper nutrition.
Please visit these websites for more on Dr. Palmer’s programs: