Challenge

maryland extension

How do you communicate vital nutrition information to lower income parents?

The University of Maryland’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) program provides lower-income children, adults and families with nutrition and healthy lifestyle education programs throughout Maryland.  One of the main ways FSNE reaches children is at elementary schools.   But while they can reach children in their classrooms, it’s hard to reach the real decision-makers – their parents, on a consistent and ongoing basis. Lower-income parents often have multiple jobs, and have difficulty attending educational sessions. Mailed flyers can get lost in the background noise of junk mail. FSNE wanted to communicate nutrition information to parents in a way that would have the most impact.

Solution

A text message campaign to reach parents when it’s most convenient for them

FSNE decided to create a mobile messaging campaign to connect with parents on the device they have in their pockets. FSNE sends 2-3 text messages a week about community events, activities in the schools, grocery store specials, new recipes, and ideas for physical activity.

“We decided to implement a texting program to reach parents in their own time and in their own space,” said Laryessa Worthington, EatSmart Coordinator.

Results

Initial results from our pilot project: 95% of parents changing their behaviors

To gauge the impact of the program, FSNE conducted focus groups at each school – with incredible results.

  • 73% of parents take the actions in the text messages always or most of the time
  • 58% of parents take those actions most of the time
  • 86% of parents said they would sign up again

“Texting has been a huge success for us,” said Worthington. “Most people are doing what we ask them to do, and we’ve had a really low opt-out rate.”

In the past year, the FSNE texting program has grown from 170 participants to over 1000, the vast majority of whom receive text messages. The program actually gets responses back from parents – even when they don’t ask for them. Parents will text back to confirm they’re going to attend an event or take an action that the program suggests.

“It’s been very easy for me to use the platform. I use it through my tablet, through my computer, and through my phone,” said Worthington. “I can access it anywhere.”

See the attached chart that FSNE created to show the program’s impact.