Volunteer-led out-of-school-time (OST) programs, such as 4-H, scouting, and youth sports, reach a large population of children and are positioned to offer opportunities for healthy eating. However, cost is a barrier to providing healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables (FVs) during OST.
Offering discounts through grocery store partnerships has shown promise in addressing this barrier in structured, staff-led after-school programs. We tested this model in volunteer-led OST programs and evaluated it using mixed methods.
The Snack It Up (SIU) intervention was designed to promote FV snacks to volunteer-led OST programs through weekly $5 grocery store discounts. Participation was limited to 1 leader per program.
Thirty-five of 36 recruited OST program leaders completed the study; 16 were enrolled in SIU and 19 in a comparison group.
Main Outcome Measures:
We assessed the following: (1) discount redemption among SIU leaders; (2) snacks served by SIU and comparison group leaders via photographs from 3 to 4 OST program sessions during SIU implementation; and (3) SIU leader perspectives using key informant interviews before and after implementation.
SIU leaders saved an average of $48.75 on FV snacks throughout the intervention ($2.90 per week, more than one-fifth of typical self-reported spending on snacks). SIU leaders also served a greater frequency (100% of sessions vs 75%, P < .001) and variety of FVs (an average of 3.5 types per session vs 1.3, P < .001) and fewer salty/sweet snacks (0.0 vs 1.3 types per session, P < .001) than those in the comparison group and expressed positive impressions of SIU.
Partnerships between OST programs and grocery stores are a promising avenue for promoting healthier snacks during OST.