The Nutrition Advocate Network is a nutrition education, food literacy, and civic engagement network that empowers food bank participants to make healthy behavior changes for themselves, their families, and their peers through positive role-modeling. Trained Nutrition Advocates are community leaders who model health and wellness and are committed to personal growth. In order to become Nutrition Advocates, Foodbank participants must graduate from the Nutrition Advocate Training Program, which consists of four monthly Cooking/Training Groups. Nutrition Advocates attend at least four Cooking/Training Groups every year, and are required to engage in annual Advocacy Projects in order to maintain their Nutrition Advocate status.
Three goals exist for the Nutrition Advocate Network:
- To create a vibrant and healthier group of knowledgeable Nutrition Advocates that will lead healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families;
- To enhance leadership skills in Nutrition Advocates so that they will successfully transfer their knowledge to their peers; and
- To effectively impact the community through Advocacy Projects the Nutrition Advocates participate in.
The purpose of the annual Advocacy Projects is to provide opportunities for Nutrition Advocates to promote change in their communities and be the voice for underrepresented community members. The Advocacy Projects give Nutrition Advocates the opportunity to take a leadership role in their community, voice issues of concern, and take action when opportunities arise. Nutrition Advocates have relationships with their peer Foodbank participants, and can bridge information between the public, the Foodbank, and partnering agencies. Advocacy Projects may include Healthy School Pantry, School Gardens, Kid’s Farmer’s Markets, Food Literacy in Preschools projects, Teens Loving Cooking classes, Political Advocacy, Farmer’s Market Tours, Grocery Store Tours, Diabetes Impact Groups, Fitness/Walking Groups, and other Advocacy Projects identified as needed.
Nutrition Advocate Training Program
Foodbank participants interested in becoming Nutrition Advocates must complete the Nutrition Advocate Training Program by attending four monthly Cooking/Training Groups where they participate in healthy cooking classes and advocacy trainings. The Cooking/Training Groups are offered once a month for two hours. Education content of the Cooking/Training Groups is relevant to common health risks of the community and recipes feature culturally relevant food. All educational materials are written at a 5th grade reading level. After participants have completed three Cooking/Training Groups, they graduate as official Nutrition Advocates. The Nutrition Advocate Training Program provides Nutrition Advocates with the knowledge and skills necessary to influence positive change in their communities, and inspire other Foodbank participants to become Nutrition Advocates.
Beyond serving as the Nutrition Advocate Training Program, the monthly Cooking/Training Groups serve as continuing education for the Nutrition Advocates network. Nutrition Advocates are required to attend at least four Cooking/Training Groups per year. This requirement is designed to help retain NAs by engaging them in the Cooking/Training Groups and encouraging them to share their experiences with others attending the Cooking/Training Group, building confidence and leadership skills. This also strengthens the peer-to-peer relationships essential for the success of the Nutrition Advocate Network. Nutrition Advocates are recognized publicly in front of their peers for their efforts. By Nutrition Advocates participating in the Cooking/Training Group at least four sessions every year, it helps to inspire others. New participants in the Nutrition Advocate Training Program are welcome throughout the year. Over time, Nutrition Advocates are invited to become the leaders and instructors of the Cooking/Training Groups through a Train the Trainer Model.
At the first monthly Cooking/Training Group session, prospective Nutrition Advocates will complete a pre-survey about their eating and physical activity habits and involvement in Advocacy Projects. At each annual required Cooking/Training Group session, Nutrition Advocates will complete a one-year interval survey with the same questions. This method of evaluation will allow the Foodbank to track behavior changes in Nutrition Advocates over time, as well as to document the work they are doing in Advocacy Projects.