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Taking Small Steps Toward Culturally Competent Nutrition Education

The Nutrition Education Pod of the Healthy Food Community created a proposed framework that institutions could use to re-examine, re-design, and re-imagine their nutrition security/education program models and evaluations to be more culturally competent and inclusive.

The authors hope organizations will consider how they can apply elements of this framework to their own work. If you are not sure where to start, we have listed a few first steps to consider:

1. Review the framework, which is divided into 3 levels: community, family, and individual (view the full framework here). Since it is unlikely that your organization is equally focused on each level, it is helpful to identify the level at which your organization invests in the most. Also, selecting a level for engagement is key because community populations vs. individual needs require different programming and investments. 2. Select one of the five pillar recommendations that most closely reflects the core work at your organization. Although each of the pillars is unique, it is likely that your organization specializes in certain activities and operations. For example, your organization may be great at building strong community partnerships to reach families, which means that partner buy-in is critical for any changes you make to curriculums and services that affect their clients, patients, or residents. 3. Consider possible changes your organization could make. What opportunities do you see from reviewing this framework? What conversations might you have in your organization? Think about incremental steps you might take to move toward larger changes.

4. Make the case. If your organization is not already on the pathway of executing a pillar consideration that would benefit the institution and communities it reaches, then you may need to make the case. From the standpoint of the organization, there may be costs associated with even a small change. Make the case that it may cost more in the long run to do nothing or to not consider modifying a key strategy in the future. The field of nutrition education and health promotion is evolving. Point to other organizations who have modified their strategies or similar services according to new guidance by the White House or USDA, or other credible institutions. For example, mental health is a factor in each of the three levels within the framework. If mental health is not being discussed when designing and implementing nutrition-related services, especially in disinvested and under resourced communities, then the organization is not addressing a key invisible barrier. Mental health acts as a facilitator or barrier to dietary changes.

We hope these suggested small steps help to guide the pathway you may decide to take when thinking about ways to use this framework within your institution.

Please join us for a webinar to discuss this framework and share your questions and reactions on September 6.

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