The Literacy, Eating, and Activity for Preschoolers (LEAP2) intervention has been chosen by the United States Department of Agriculture as one of only three Models of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and Evaluation demonstration projects nationwide in 2010. LEAP was developed in 2004 to address three risk factors: low literacy levels, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, and physical inactivity. The program lessons are based on story books, and include opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables and participate in fun physical activities and other supportive activities. A parent newsletter provides additional information and recipes. In response to agent requests, a component for primary school-age children was added in 2008. This component became LEAP2.
The LEAP2 program improves the likelihood that persons eligible for the SNAP-Ed Program will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose healthy lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA Food Guidance System. After participating in SNAP-Ed sessions, participants understand how to eat a healthy diet on a limited food budget using food stamp benefits and managing their food resources.
The Models of SNAP-Ed and Evaluation Demonstration project will provide LEAP2 with a quantitative and qualitative, objective and subjective evaluation of whether this program leads to greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and increased physical activity among first through third graders. It will also provide insight regarding the effectiveness of the parent newsletter to reach parents and grandparents and to promote changes in the home environment.
The Models of SNAP-Ed and Evaluation Demonstration project provides a unique opportunity for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service to work with USDA program administrators, professional evaluators and other state programs. Jackie Walters, Extension Specialist with UK's Nutrition Education Program said, "This is an exciting chance to both evaluate the effectiveness of the LEAP 2 program and to get cutting-edge instruction about program evaluation in general. It should equip us with skills that will allow us to provide even better programs in the future."
The LEAP2 program will be implemented in four elementary schools each in Perry and Laurel Counties, and measured against four schools that do not have the LEAP2 to see if the program increases consumption of fruits and vegetables among children. This will be measured by plate waste studies in the school cafeterias, prior to and at the end of the intervention. USDA evaluators will conduct separate, parallel investigations of both the process and the impact.The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serves 120 counties throughout the commonwealth with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed). Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Extension improves the quality of individual and family life through education, research, and outreach.