Commissioned by the public health network for Cheshire and Merseyside (ChaMPs), Snack Right was a program designed to help children in low-income neighborhoods replace at least one unhealthy snack a day with a healthy option – ideally a fruit or vegetable. Work on the project began with an in-depth literature review and workshops with subject experts to identify key nutrition and dietary intake issues for English preschool children. This work confirmed that snacking and snack foods were major contributors to dietary problems and helped the project team to identify their target audience – parents and carers of children aged three to five. Mapping exercises were used to identify neighborhoods where the intervention could take place and the locations of supermarket chains that could serve as partners for the project. Once neighborhoods were selected, a series of 15 focus groups were held with single mothers, grandparents, first-time parents, non-white ethnic groups, and nursery workers to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by the target audience as well as their shopping habits and media consumption. Data collected was used by the project development team to design the program’s outreach strategy, which consisted of 15 different interactive events held at children’s centers within the community. While events were aimed at children, each event created an opportunity for engaging with the parents or caretakers who accompanied them to the event. To put caretakers at ease, events were informal and hosted by staff who the caretakers and children already knew. At each event, children could try different fruits and vegetables while caretakers were shown fun ways to create healthy snacks for their children and were informed of the health benefits of replacing unhealthy snacks with healthy alternatives. Additionally, caretakers were given the opportunity to sign up for Healthy Start, the national welfare voucher scheme, and provided with information on where the vouchers could be used locally. Snack Right event organizers invited “good competitors” to attend, ensuring co-promotion of shared objectives, and Snack Right ambassadors were recommended by members of the steering group to help promote events within their communities. Post-intervention, an evaluation of the events was conducted which led to rescoping the Snack Right project before developing Phase Two. In this second phase, marketing materials were created, competition prizes were incorporated into the program, and changes were made to the event planning process. A key difference in the delivery of events was the addition of a professional photographer, who would photograph children at the event (with parental consent). These photos were later mailed to the families along with a letter and snacking sticker calendar, that when completed, would be exchanged for a prize for the child and two entries into a prize drawing for caretakers. Each family also received a goodie bag as they left the event which included a plastic snack bowl, a Healthy Start leaflet, a piece of fruit, a Snack Right leaflet and any relevant local information from the children’s center. Phase two was evaluated through a baseline and follow-up questionnaire, 23 interviews, and 2 focus groups with parents and caretakers. 41 per cent of families that attended Phase Two events entered the Snack Right competition and continued to replace an unhealthy snack with a healthy snack for 4 weeks after attending an event and 84 per cent of families felt they had picked up new ideas about healthy snacking.
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