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Steps to Health

The prevalence of food insecurity in North Carolina is higher than the national average. One in four children in North Carolina lives in households that lack access to adequate food.

NC State’s Steps to Health SNAP-Ed program educates and inspires limited resource North Carolinians to eat smart and move more through nutrition and food resource management education programs targeting elementary-aged children, adults, older adults, families, and Latino families. Steps to Health is delivered by county-based educators across North Carolina. They are:

  • Members of the community they support
  • Trained by university faculty to influence changes in behavior
  • Skilled in using hands-on interactive teaching methods
  • Committed to delivering research-based instruction
  • Dedicated to reaching diverse, low-income populations

What is SNAP-Ed?

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) is the nutrition education arm of SNAP. Funded through the US Department of Agriculture and delivered nation-wide, it brings together federal, state, and local resources to improve the likelihood that families enrolled in and eligible for SNAP will make healthy food choices within a limited budget and choose physically active lifestyles.

Defining the Problem

[pullquote color=’red’ align=’right’]Only 1 in 4 children eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.[/pullquote]

Obesity and related chronic diseases are prevalent among North Carolinians. The state ranks 13th in the nation for obesity, and 9th and 17th highest for adult diabetes and hypertension, respectively. Poor eating practices and physical inactivity are not limited to adults. Children are following closely in their footsteps, with only 1 in 4 eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and almost half spending more than two hours watching television every day. Thirty percent of kids in the state rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to meet their nutritional needs.


Since its start in 2007, Steps to Health has improved diets, nutrition-related behaviors, and physical activity levels of thousands of North Carolinians.

Direct education programs are multi-session to provide repetition and aid in the retention of information presented. Sessions are interactive and multi- sensory to better facilitate learning. Session components include: taste tests, cooking demonstrations, games, discussion, physical activity, songs, and goal setting. Participants receive take-home materials to promote behavior change outside of the classroom. Steps to Health enhances direct education by providing support for policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change at Head Start and childcare centers, elementary schools, congregate nutrition sites, senior centers, and faith communities.

  • Steps to Health educators, in collaboration with NC Cooperative Extension, reached 50,018 participants within 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
  • 93% of preschool children are more willing to try fruits and vegetables.
  • 74% of elementary school children eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • 55% of children and youth are more active.
  • 47% of adults and older adults are more active.
  • 65% of child care centers and elementary schools made at least one change in their policy, systems, or environment.
  • 70% of Summer Meals site managers said Steps to Health increased participation and retention at their site.