Park and recreation professionals offer vital public health services and programs to their communities. As trusted community anchors, park and recreation agencies can be great partners for local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offices. Agencies can conduct outreach and eligibility prescreening, provide referrals, offer program feedback, assist in program delivery and more. SNAP and WIC are critical programs that promote and maintain access to critical nutrition assistance for individuals and families. Given the direct impact these federal nutrition programs have on local community members, advocating for their sustainability and promoting their effectiveness is a simple, system-level approach for agencies to advance community health and well-being.
Advocacy broadly defined means speaking up and speaking out on an issue or cause that you care about. Everyone engages in advocacy — even you! Lobbying refers to a specific kind of advocacy meant to influence the outcome of specific legislation. You may not be able to lobby, but as an expert on food security — You can advocate! Advocacy can be one of the greatest tools we have to protect and strengthen SNAP and WIC. Here are a few ways you can advocate:
As a constituent of your Senators’ state and Representative’s district, it’s vital that you lift up stories of the impact of SNAP and WIC on your community. The more they hear about the positive impact of SNAP and WIC on their constituents, the more likely they are to support strengthening nutrition assistance programs. Sample advocacy actions you can take:
- Call or visit your federal representatives’ local offices based in your district. Foster a relationship with your official and their staff. Invite them to visit your programs when they are in the district (August is a great time for this invite!). For steps on how to contact your local representative, see NRPA’s Congressional Visit Toolkit.
While SNAP and WIC are federal programs, states administer these programs, including the application process. By telling your story, you can help state-level stakeholders understand and appreciate how these programs improve nutritional and health outcomes locally. Here are a sample of advocacy actions you can take:
- Educate state decision makers on your program by inviting them to tour your facility where SNAP or WIC services may be provided — remember, seeing is believing!
- Include SNAP and WIC in disaster planning, ensuring that vital food assistance reaches vulnerable households in the wake of disaster events.
Advocating for SNAP and WIC can help foster a community that supports the program and each other, improving the client experience, reducing stigma and improving participation rates. Here are sample advocacy actions you can take:
- Attend town hall meetings and participate in like-minded community coalitions, highlighting the benefits of SNAP and WIC. Partners and coalitions are essential in defending and amplifying these programs. Building consensus and community support behind your programs will help them remain sustainable.
- Educate local decision makers on the benefits of SNAP and WIC. Try inviting local legislators as well as departmental and agency officials to events that promote your programs.
Not sure what to say to advocate on behalf of SNAP and WIC? Use the following talking points to build the case with elected officials, partner organizations and members of the public.
General Key Messages
- Local park and recreation agencies serve as Community Wellness Hubs, connecting all members of the community to programs and services that advance health equity, improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) help millions of people make ends meet by providing food assistance and making needed health resources and health care accessible.
- Participants in SNAP can be adjunctively eligible for WIC. This is important because more people access benefits more easily.
- The process of applying for SNAP and/or WIC benefits can be intimidating, and lack of awareness of their eligibility, difficulty with the application process, and/or perceived social stigma can deter eligible people from applying. However, park and recreation agencies are helping ease this burden by providing education and support services.
- Every month, WIC serves roughly 7.3 million low-income mothers, babies and young children at nutritional risk.
- WIC participation contributes to healthier births, more nutritious diets, improved infant feeding practices, better health care for children, and, subsequently, higher academic achievement for students.
Park and recreation professionals are leaders in promoting vital services that advance physical, emotional and economic health for community members. With their social media platforms, park and recreation agencies can educate community members on how to access nutrition assistance programs, destigmatize SNAP and WIC programs, and advocate for sustainable SNAP and WIC funding.
General Social Media Guidance
Polish Your Language
- Use correct punctuation and spelling so that your messages will be easily understood. When posting on Twitter with character limits, try to rephrase your post versus just shortening and abbreviating words.
Be Consistent With Your Posts
- Decide how often you plan to post and try to be consistent. Maybe you plan to post one Instagram post a day and three Facebook posts a week. You can increase your postings over time, just try to avoid posting 20 times in one day and then disappearing for two weeks.
Be Inclusive, Be Diverse and Be Positive
- Use positive language and avoid any expressions that express or imply ideas that are sexist, racist or otherwise biased, prejudiced or discriminating to any particular group of people. Be respectful of those you take photos of. For guidance on inclusive language, use NRPA’s Equity Language Guide: nrpa.org/EquityLanguageGuide.
Use Photos and Videos
- Photos and videos catch people’s attention, but make sure you mix it up and post different types of photos, people, activities and events to keep your followers’ interest. Free web and mobile apps like Canva can help you create stylized photos/graphics that you can use.
Think of What You Want Your Audience to Do and Shape Your Message Around That
- A single tweet simply inviting people to your parks or recreation centers may not raise a lot of interest, but you can recommend specific things to do that shares the message why someone should visit. Instead of just saying, “Come to [X] park,” say, “Here are 5 things you and your family can do at [X] park.”
Relevant Hashtags: #SNAPMatters, #WICWorks, #CommunityWellnessHub
Little Rock, Arkansas
The City of Little Rock’s Be Mighty Campaign harnesses the power of libraries and recreation centers to reduce food insecurity through SNAP and WIC enrollment assistance. All library associates were trained as SNAP navigators by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to increase their understanding and capacity to support community members with applying for and managing their SNAP benefits. Staff conducted food security screenings of individuals to determine eligible resources, connecting them to those resources through a referral system. Screenings were conducted in person at a dozen sites and made available online for continuous screening and referral support. They advertised SNAP and WIC resources and Be Mighty enrollment services in local news, radio stations and through physical signage throughout the city, and found word of mouth to be their greatest resource. In addition to advertising SNAP office hours, each site distributed notecard sized “invitations” to invite community members to talk with SNAP navigators about eligibility. They have participated in outreach events throughout the local community, including local farmers markets, where they offer nutrition education and promote SNAP and WIC services. In just one year, the City of Little Rock and Central Arkansas Library System supported 7,495 families with SNAP/WIC enrollment assistance.