Commissioners question SNAP Ed programming

By Eddie Mowen Jr. - [email protected]

EATON — Preble County Commissioners met with representatives from OSU Extension’s SNAP Ed program – a position and program few knew existed in Preble County — during their Monday, June 28, meeting.

Preble County SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Educator Jackson Hile was joined at the meeting by Margarita Lewis, SNAP Ed assistant from Butler County OSU Extension.

Hile, who has been at Preble County’s OSU Extension since July 2019, reported having completed a successful gardening nutrition program in Lewisburg in partnership with Brown Memorial Library.

“The Village of Lewisburg gave us the plots and the storage, access to their community garden, and gave us the meeting space in their community center,” Hile told commissioners. “Brown Memorial provided meeting space, staff to assist program delivery, and they located the qualifying participants,” he continued, noting those included Your Happy Place and Kid Connection.

According to Hile, Miami Valley CTC’s retail ag services program donated tomato and pepper plants to the Village of Lewisburg which Brown Memorial distributed to everyone who qualified. “So those were a big benefit to our program, they’re going to continue to donate to SNAP Ed next year too,” he said.

“Sheetmetal Workers Union Local 24 made some metal window boxes that are over in the Extension Office now, in the conference room,” Hile continued. He said SNAP Ed purchased pots and tools.

“I purchased a variety of different seeds — two per participants, so the kids were able to so radishes and spinach. We did a really big variety of stuff because our goal in the fall was to make salsas and spaghetti sauce with all these vegetables that we’ve coordinated with over the summer,” he said.

SNAP Ed also does a nutrition program, according to Hile, which was completed with Your Happy Place and Kid Connection.

Hile also reported, “I contacted Darke County Extension office in late May, to see if there was a need for programming out there, just because we were getting into a lull here with things.” His time there was spent in working with inmates at the Darke County Jail.

Commissioner Rachael Vonderhaar questioned programming only in one Preble County school.

According to Hile, SNAP Ed did do a program with Twin Valley South Middle School. “We did a program during the school year, we’re going to resume that in the fall,” he said. “And that’s only because that’s the only middle school in Preble County that qualifies for our program, with 50 percent or more students getting served free and reduced lunch.”

“I had someone challenge me on that figure,” Vonderhaar said, “So I was curious how that information was collected.”

“That information is collected through the state; so their food service director files all that paperwork, sends it to the state office, the state gives me a report from the previous year,” Hile explained, noting the figures on the report he currently has are from 2018.

“What I do, because our numbers change every other month for the schools, I call every food service director on the phone, and we get a number right off their computer. So, of how many applications they turned in and are submitted to the state, that’s how I find the qualifications, because I like to use current data and it’s easier to just call them and get it,” he noted, adding he also contacts them for updates at the beginning of each school year, and again in January.

“A lot of the challenge can be, they may serve over 50 percent free and reduced lunch, but it’s not documented with state applications that they’re serving free reduced lunch,” he said. “The school may be more than that, but we have to go off of what they have documented application-wise. Because last year the governor said everybody got free and reduced lunch, but I still had to call and say, ‘Well, who turned in applications?’ And, ‘who did not?’”

Vonderhaar also questioned Hile’s SNAP Ed activities in Darke County.

“I was just curious, as I look through here, I see the Darke County connections. Did you reach out to the same level in Preble County?”

Hiles said he had, noting SNAP Ed’s grant goes everywhere. “I’ve sent out letters,” he said. “I send out three letters, then we do three phone calls, and after no return, we move on to the next spot. So Darke County needed it.”

Head Start in Preble County was the only entity he contacted when he started, according to Hile, saying the program wasn’t ready for SNAP Ed. “The thought being, if I get in with Darke and do it up there, because they’ve already had SNAP Ed programming, that we can get a reference to be put it down here and say it’s a really good program, just because Head Start in Preble County has never seen SNAP Ed programming,” he explained. “They were the original partners for this Lewisburg PSE effort, but Kid Connection took its place because they were not ready for the program.”

Vonderhaar also questioned whether Hile had built a relationship with Preble County JFS, where SNAP (food stamp) benefits are coordinated.

“No, not directly,” Hile said. “We have with the Mental Health & Recovery Board. With JFS I send them a quarterly report of who we’ve reported to, because they’re one of our funders.”

“These are just some of the questions that I’ve been asked,” Vonderhaar noted. “So you’ve been here since July 2019. Becky [Sorrell], being the head of SNAP for the community and that relationship building I would have expected to be the first stop — is that what I should expect?”

“It’s a matter of just where we’re going for programming,” Hile said. “Initially we went through partners, through the 4-H, and we’ve worked with those groups.”

“We didn’t get there,” he said of Preble County Job & Family Services.

In other business

The board approved the following payments and expenditures: Soldier’s Relief, $2,700; Sheriff, $5,800 and Family Children First Council, $5,800 and $14,400; $17,378.70 for the purchase of a tire changer and wheel balancer for the Preble County Engineer.

The board also approved a supplemental appropriation for the Sheriff’s Rotary Fund – National Trail Local Schools, $10,005.31; and Recycling Fund, $9,500.

Resolutions were approved authorizing the commission office to discard personal property and for the annexation of certain real estate to the City of Eaton.

The board also approved the notice of retirement of Debra Ledford, Microfilm, and approved a plaza use permit application for Downtown Eaton Inc. for the Eaton Car Show, Aug. 28.

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

[email protected]

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr