Work in Nebraska
Although our reach is national, we are entrenched in a lot of fantastic work at home in Nebraska. We are grateful for our many local partners including the Douglas County Health Department, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Hunger Free Heartland, Live Well Omaha and many more.
- Food Insecurity – Over a three-year period, we have partnered with Omaha-area hunger relief and other related organizations on an initiative that provides support in improving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment to low-income families, streamlines services at local food pantries, increases breakfast in the classroom availability, and facilitates financial skill building. Our evaluation has assessed the initiative’s impact on food insecurity, dietary patterns and hunger coping strategies previously unknown or not quantified. In addition, in Year 3, we are assessing a pilot study in an Omaha neighborhood grocery store that will educate customers and increase their SNAP benefits. In another project, Center staff members visited 85 pantries throughout Nebraska and western Iowa to collect data for Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 study. Every four years, Feeding America collects vital information that informs national food insecurity data. This year-long effort in Nebraska was led by the Center in partnership with Food Bank for the Heartland. ConAgra Foods Foundation provided funding on both of these projects.
- Healthy Food Access – In partnership with six local public health departments (LPHDs) and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, we are assessing the healthfulness of foods made available through vending and cafeteria settings in Nebraska public institutions such as city/county buildings and hospitals. LPHDs across the state will use this assessment to inform interventions in these institutions.
- Rural Healthy Food Retail – With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we previously assessed the availability and accessibility of the foods offered in small corner stores using the modified Nebraska NEMS-S in 30 small stores in urban and rural Nebraska. This was augmented by interviews with each of the store owners. This study highlighted the difference between urban and rural environments, and has led to additional Center work in rural stores across the state.
- Local Food Production – As part of a USDA grant, we explored ways to sell more Nebraska beef in the state through interviewing rural grocery stores about the barriers to and possibilities of increasing beef producers’ direct sales to local stores. Our next step is implementation of a sales and distribution pilot study in a key rural Nebraska community.
- Childhood Obesity Prevention – Collaborating with Omaha-area child care experts and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, we have developed and distributed a series of online instructional videos that teach children healthy eating and physical activity habits. In addition, we are currently training Omaha child care center employees on use of these videos available at teachkidsnutrition.org. These child care centers are able to gain continuing education credit through the State of Nebraska for their participation.
- Farm to Plate – Working with the Douglas County Health Department and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center facilitated Farm to School efforts in seven school districts in Douglas County for two years. Farmers and school food service directors were surveyed to identify why more local foods aren’t served in school cafeterias. That effort led to a second partnership with the department where the Center paired an Omaha-area employer with a local vegetable farmer in order to evaluate a farm-to-worksite produce distribution program. Currently, we have begun work with Lincoln Public Schools to evaluate its pilot Farm to School program.
- Breastfeeding Support – We have partnered with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on several projects including a statewide assessment of policies and practices that support breastfeeding and assess training needs for lactation consultants at birthing hospitals.
- Healthy Restaurant Menu – Following an analysis of parent-child interactions and decision making while ordering at a restaurant, we partnered with a South Omaha restaurant to develop a healthy children’s menu. Collaborating with a chef and a dietician and providing technical assistance for kitchen staff, we created, implemented and marketed the menu while tracking sales effects. Next, we conducted an Omaha-wide assessment that identified restaurants that implement or are willing to implement healthier menus. These restaurants were acknowledged at a Center-hosted recognition event.