University of Nevada, Reno Extension recently named Macy Helm as SNAP-Ed coordinator and Brian Luckey as SNAP-Ed evaluation coordinator to assist in increasing the health and nutrition program’s impact throughout Nevada. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of those with lower incomes to help improve their nutritional well-being. SNAP-Ed is the educational outreach associated with the program to teach people how to make their benefits stretch further, how to shop for and cook healthy meals, and how to stay physically active.
In Nevada, Extension conducts several SNAP-Ed evidenced-based educational and outreach programs. These two new positions will serve a vital role for the programs, as Extension continues to implement the strategic change it made in recent years, which brought grant applications and program efforts under one statewide plan. This change has allowed the program to grow and increase its impact throughout the state.
Together, Helm and Luckey are working to build capacity statewide for nutrition education to ensure programming is comprehensive and achieving the goals of SNAP-Ed.
Helm coordinates statewide efforts for SNAP-Ed
As SNAP-Ed Coordinator, Helm oversees the administration of the SNAP-Ed grant award, coordinates statewide nutrition education, and helps to identify ways in which an organization can make changes to their facility or policies to improve the health and nutrition of its participants. She also oversees the Expanded Federal Nutrition Education Program, which brings nutrition education to low-income families in a practical, hands-on, applied way.
Helm is currently working with the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services to complete a two-part needs assessment of the SNAP-eligible population in Nevada. Additionally, she is helping Extension State Specialist and Associate Professor Anne Lindsay to develop a nutrition education curriculum for older adults, which aims to improve health through changes in behavior. She is also co-authoring an informational publication that focuses on the best practices for program implementation with Lindsay and Aurora Calvillo Buffington, who is also an Extension state specialist in health and nutrition. This guide will serve as a resource for agencies within the state that are implementing interventions and curriculum to improve the well-being of Nevadans.
“I am passionate about broadening the equity of healthy food and healthy living across populations,” Helm said. “This position provides the opportunity to contribute to health equity at the state level and address food insecurity by leveraging resources within Extension.”
Helm previously served as a community-based instructor for Extension’s Healthy Aging Program, a program that aims to deliver interventions and create sustainable opportunities that promote healthful nutrition and physical activity participation for the older adult population across Nevada. She is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in nutrition sciences with a sport nutrition concentration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, expecting to graduate this May. This is her second bachelor’s degree.
“I am interested in research, and Extension allows for involvement in applied research through collaboration with academic faculty on projects complementary to community nutrition and physical activity access,” she said.
Luckey ensures effectiveness of programming efforts
In addition to working with Helm, Luckey works in collaboration with Extension Evaluation Specialist Najat Elgeberi to design, develop, implement and coordinate needs assessments and evaluations of the SNAP-Ed programs in Nevada. The goal of his role is to learn more about how to improve Extension’s programming efforts and to identify the programs’ successes to share with the public. His current work will help Extension identify what further information is needed in order to better reach and educate the SNAP-eligible population about nutrition and physical education.
“I look forward to working with our SNAP-Ed team on ways to measure the impact of the work they are doing with the people of Nevada,” Luckey said. “I recently just agreed to help with a potential grant from USDA-NIFA to provide evaluation support for a food systems education project for teens in Nevada.”
Luckey previously served as a 4-H Extension educator at the University of Idaho for 14 years before coming to the University of Nevada, Reno to work on a doctoral degree in education. His work with the 4-H Youth Development Program taught him about direct program delivery and how to evaluate and report on programs to show their impacts on the community.
“In 2018, I was able to get a graduate research assistantship helping the Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to evaluate some of their statewide programming efforts,” Luckey said. “I feel like my experience as county faculty gives me a unique perspective on developing evaluation systems that can help local faculty measure the impacts of their programs.”
Helm and Luckey work to close gaps and provide solutions
Helm said their positions are complementary in how they will work together to identify gaps in services and propose solutions to address those gaps.
“We also will be able to strengthen communicating our impact to stakeholders by having a more robust evaluation of our programmatic activities,” Helm said. “Together, we will be able to see how well we are doing and determine what needs to be done to continually improve healthy eating and physical activity for SNAP-eligible Nevadans.”
Learn more about Extension’s SNAP-Ed programs.