FARE is serving as a best practice across the country. In 2019, we brought the Heart Smarts program to Cleveland. Heart Smarts, an evidence-based SNAP-Ed program offers nutrition education, taste tests, coupons, and resources directly to residents shopping in small food retail stores. The Heart Smarts program meets residents where they are bringing nutrition education, health, social services, and increased food access to local corner stores. Heart Smarts empowers residents with the information and resources they need to improve their health.
Through Heart Smarts, FARE staff and members of the Community Collectives engaged residents to make realistic changes and healthy choices. Through the program, we connect with people facing difficult circumstances that other programs tend to miss, including young men and men of color. As we got to know customers during weekly programming in stores, we learn that participants are struggling with other needs including housing, mental and behavioral health, chronic disease management, mentoring and job training, domestic violence and abuse and smoking cessation. The program has the ability to build on partnerships with other organizations to connect Heart Smarts participants to effective resources and support that will help them address these needs.
During the pilot, FARE offered a total of 54 lessons in five stores reaching over 2,500 participants in just four months. Community and store owner responses were overwhelmingly positive. We exceeded our participation goal by 77%, surpassing the total participants of similar pilots in California and Indiana. This is just one of the many examples of concrete success achieved by FARE which taught us that a participatory equity-based model, and strong infrastructure and relationships yield highly successful interventions that change people’s lives.