SNAP-Ed New York logoApril 5, 2024 — March was National Nutrition Month and PEF members at the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are pulling out all the stops to educate low-income New Yorkers about how to live healthier lives. 

Elida Esposito, a PEF member for more than 13 years and a bureau chief in the SNAP program at OTDA, said SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense to combat hunger and food insecurity. 

Her job helps keep that program running. 

“We supervise local social services’ administration of SNAP,” she said. “I also oversee and coordinate the SNAP Education and Obesity Prevention (SNAP-Ed) and SNAP Outreach contracts that deliver services to the SNAP population across New York state. Collectively, these programs bring in approximately $41 million in federal dollars and $12.5 million in state and local dollars annually.” 

As obesity continues to plague the country and low-income New Yorkers struggle to incorporate healthy eating into their lives, PEF members at OTDA are actively working to address these issues and more through the SNAP-Ed program. 

Free to all who qualify for and/or receive SNAP benefits, SNAP-Ed “provides skill-based nutrition education classes and sponsors obesity prevention events in local communities on a variety of topics like healthy eating on a budget, smart shopping for vegetables and fruit, healthy meal planning, basic cooking and food safety skills, weight control, and physical activity,” said Esposito.  

“The goals are to encourage New Yorkers to eat more fruits and vegetables; drink less sugar-sweetened beverages; and exercise more and balance calories as part of a healthy lifestyle,” she said. 

SNAP-Ed is coordinated by OTDA and administered by a network of state and local providers, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, the state Department of Health, Office for the Aging, Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Food Bank of New York City, New York Common Pantry, the Children’s Aid Society, and City Harvest, to name a few. 

“In 2023, SNAP-Ed served more than 150,000 individuals,” Esposito said. “Our program’s success is a direct result of the collaborative partnerships we have developed with our implementing agencies and state partners over the years, and we cannot thank them enough for their continued efforts to support OTDA in serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers.” 

For National Nutrition Month, OTDA helped promote a Facebook Live series every Tuesday where partner agencies offered education on everything from meal planning with leftovers, to adding plant-based proteins and eating with the environment in mind, to tips on budgeting.  

“National Nutrition Month is an exciting time for SNAP-Ed provider agencies,” Esposito said. “Each year, they plan and implement a variety of services that are delivered in-person and virtually. This year’s theme was Beyond the Table and many activities are centered around that.” 

Nutrition may be featured in March, but it is a priority year-round. 

“The SNAP-Ed program reach is impressive, with services for children as young as five, all the way through older adulthood,” Esposito said. “The combined methods of education surrounding healthy eating on a limited budget with physical activity play a critical role in advancing food and nutrition security and can have lifelong impacts.” 

For more information on SNAP-Ed, visit the OTDA website or SNAP-Ed New York – Save time. Save money. Eat healthy. 

Editor’s Note: PEF is doing its part to encourage a healthy lifestyle and make New Yorkers in the capital region aware of resources available to them and their families. The union and PEF Membership Benefits will hold their second annual Wellness Fair & Reading Opens the World Book Giveaway on April 27, 2024, at the Albany Armory on Washington Ave., from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Please click here for more information.