Curriculum Rubric Explanation Guide


Direct education is an essential and required component of the SNAP-Ed program. To continuously improve the quality of curricula for use in SNAP-Ed, the State of Washington has developed a Curriculum Rubric that aligns with best practices in curriculum design, alignment with the SNAP-Ed program and state goals, and consideration of equity-centered engagement. We expect differences in personal and professional characteristics of individuals using the rubric. Therefore, there will be subjectivity and nuance around the indicator scoring. Scores may also differ across varying implementation settings. This guide will support the utilization of the rubric.

This rubric should accommodate diverse people and settings and identify features of a quality SNAP-Ed curriculum—specifically, global SNAP-Ed principles that are scalable to local community implementation to improve nutrition education outcomes.

The rubric should also enhance facilitator awareness of contemporary issues in SNAP-Ed and serve as a signpost for future curriculum development. The Ecological Indicators included in the rubric may be new to SNAP-Ed implementers, so we have provided further explanation. As Washington SNAP-Ed uses this rubric, we expect this explainer document to evolve and improve.

The sections below seek to:

  • Identify the Key Features or Indicators in the Ecological Section
  • Signal what to look for when using the rubric Features to evaluate curricula
  • Explain why these Features are included in the rubric using themes from key informant interviews and focus groups conducted during FFY22

Explanation Guide for Ecological Indicators

Language Availability

Available in languages and formats that match the needs of the implementer’s community

What to look for:

  • A Transformative designation does not require the curriculum to be available in every language spoken in the community. However, a Transformative curriculum should meet threshold languages in a community. For this reason, the CTW Team may identify a curriculum as Transformative because it includes three languages. A local implementer may choose a different designation if the languages available do not match the threshold languages.

Community-Centered Evidence Base:

WA Implementers expressed a need for relevant materials for use in various settings. Language availability reduces the burden on multi-lingual educators to provide a written translation.

Inclusion of Diverse Participants

Intentionally welcoming to the wide variety of program participants, e.g. racial and ethnic groups, differing abilities and ages, body sizes, cultural/linguistic groups, and other
social contexts.

Because this indicator may include newer concepts:

  • The relationship between calorie consumption, physical activity, and weight loss is challenging to address in a way that encourages healthy habits regardless of body size. For example, when physical activity is framed only as a way to burn calories, someone who might not consider weight loss or want to gain weight could conclude they do not need exercise.
  • For participants who are interested in losing weight, or feel uncomfortable with their current body size, an outsized focus on calorie balance messaging can be shaming. Weight loss is complicated; simplifying the message can spur feelings of failure. Consider how participants might interpret curriculum materials from different points of view: "How would I feel if I were…[struggling to lose weight, struggling to gain weight, happy with my current body size, conflicted with my current body size]." Note: eating disorders are outside the scope of most SNAP-Ed curricula, but implementers working in some settings may consider how participants struggling with more severe disorders may interpret particular messages.

What to look for:

  • If a curriculum is designated Emerging or higher, the curriculum should be responsive to a wide range of SNAP-Ed sites. Emerging materials might specifically address the needs of disabled adults, unsheltered participants, or participants who want to adhere to particular cultural or religious diets. When considering food resource management strategies, curriculum materials might offer strategies suitable for an older adult living alone, a family shopping monthly, or community members with limited food access or transportation.
  • Developing materials not only account for various perspectives, abilities, and living situations but also reinforce the acceptance of the food choices of others. Implementers may notice that activities or discussions in Developing curricula invite participants to share their perspectives, memories, strategies, or lived experience to build group knowledge. Participants in this curriculum might learn things that support their dietary health and provide insight into others’ lived experiences.
  • Transformative curriculum materials spur investigation of the sources of inequities in food access and nutrition topics. Implementers may notice that curriculum materials invite discussion about current or historical events, aspects of the built environment, weight stigma, or policies that influence nutritional health. Given the complexity of this topic, it is more likely that curriculum materials would provide space for these discussions via anchor questions as opposed to curriculum materials intended to educate participants. One exception may be materials related to food marketing or food advertising. These materials are examples of educational topics which can lead to a discussion about inequity.

Community-Centered Evidence Base:

  • Implementers described a successful SNAP-Ed program for participants as acknowledging that systemic barriers complicate behavior change.
  • Both implementers and SNAP-Ed participants shared the benefits of class participation and acknowledgment of their circumstances.
  • SNAP-Ed participants shared many perspectives on how their life circumstances affected their health decisions. For example, older adults discussed the role of pain and discomfort. All age groups reflected on inflation. Parents from Latino and Native backgrounds shared experiences of being treated differently due to their cultural identity.
  • During focus groups, participants routinely shared successful strategies that helped to broaden perspectives.

Respect for the lived experience of participants

Demonstrates understanding of and respect for the lived experiences of SNAP-Ed participants. Further, curriculum embraces the fuller meaning of food in life; supports nourishing diets without disrupting other aspects of individual and community relationships with food. Emphasizes outcomes that promote the preservation of food cultural heritage.

What to look for:

  • Research on resilience supports a positive cultural identity. Emerging, Developing, and Transformative curriculum materials will encourage nourishing diets within culturally diverse dietary patterns. A Neutral curriculum will avoid shaming particular cultural foodways or overemphasizing one culture or dietary pattern. Review the examples used in participant handouts or facilitator notes when considering this indicator. Are the standards of healthy diets often foods that align with a particular cultural orientation? Consider the representation of common cultural foods in the cultures of SNAP-Ed program participants.
  • Food choices are not just a means to long-term health but intersect with individual, family, and community identities. Look for examples in the participants' handouts, facilitator notes, or activities where the role of food in areas outside health is acknowledged and explored. Look especially for ways program participants can share their strengths and what brings them joy.
  • Community nutrition programs have not always celebrated cultural foodways. Does the curriculum take a proactive approach to center the food cultures of participants explicitly in curriculum materials or by introducing activities and discussions that create space for participants to explore these issues? A curriculum that avoids shaming but does not embrace cultural foodways can receive a Neutral designation for this indicator.
  • A Developing curriculum will take a proactive approach to these issues by reserving space in the curriculum to discuss local or historical issues affecting nourishment or food access issues in the community. The curriculum does not need to provide a history lesson. However, it may address this topic with anchor questions or other instructional strategies. Facilitator training may encourage education about the history of local communities.

Community-Centered Evidence Base:

  • Focus groups confirmed that program participants from various cultural backgrounds might consider their cultural foods unhealthy. While the healthfulness of different dishes varies in every culture, focus groups did uncover more broadly negative views from non-white participants about their cultural foods. One poignant comment: "For me, I have removed many things from my diet, from my Mexican food that I love. I have removed too many things."
  • We asked focus group participants to react to the word food. Their responses reinforced the need to address food more broadly, considering its role in relationships. When participants brought up the health frame first, their comments were predominantly negative - citing health conditions, cost, and frustration. When participants brought up social or cooking perspectives first, their remarks were largely positive - cooking skills, love of feeding others, and enjoyment of social time.
  • When pressed to expand on how their relationship with food developed, focus group participants often shared the hyper-local factors that affect their food choices. For example, a large group of pantry clients spoke passionately about the positive effect of changes at the local pantry. Native participants explained the difference in access to cultural food knowledge that resulted from living on reservation land vs. living a short distance off that land.

Empowerment of participants and acknowledgement of systemic barriers to health

Provides space to recognize historical (e.g. gender-based) and systemic barriers to health. Emphasizes outcomes that promote human freedom, dignity, creativity, curiosity, and emotionally-positive experiences.

What to look for:

  • Consider how the materials provide opportunities to build self-awareness and self-efficacy. If instructors relay information without deeper engagement, the curriculum may receive a Neutral or Unsatisfactory designation. For example, a MyPlate activity that teaches food groups and engages participants only to restate MyPlate components would score lower than one where participants reflect, imagine, and share. 
  • A curriculum designated as Developing or Transformative will leverage participant creativity and curiosity. Activities encourage imagination and storytelling. 
  • An Emerging curriculum includes media literacy and a discussion of the role of food advertising on our consumption or how grocery store layouts may lead us to spend more money on less healthy items. Curricula that include references to SNAP or food pantry items in a straightforward way may also receive an Emerging or higher designation since it seeks to incorporate realities of food insecurity into the conversation.
  • An Emerging curriculum may recognize the role of historical gender roles in food sourcing and preparation. Materials that overemphasize personal or gendered responsibility for health, weight, eating/feeding behaviors, and choices may be designated Neutral or Unsatisfactory.
  • A Developing curriculum presents activities to see dignity in other peoples’ approaches, such as recipe swapping, storytelling, and self-disclosure.

Community-Centered Evidence Base:

  • Focus group participants often linked the healthfulness of items with broader circumstances. Once, participants shared that "[g]ood nourishment means I'm not hungry. Sometimes it's important just not to be hungry." When asked, focus group participants analyzed SNAP program, food pantries, and school nutrition programs. These participants had nuanced and informed views of how programs impacted
  • Young adult women shared that their resistance to cooking stemmed from the expectation that they were supposed to do it. In one conversation, a young woman expressed frustration that when her brother cooked, her family gave him enthusiastic praise because it was unexpected.
  • Both youth, adult, and old adult focus group participants shared a love for the creative and playful content they found on the web via YouTube and TikTok. They loved trying new things and sharing this type of content with others. Participants uniformly shared that recipe preparation was their favorite part of nutrition classes.

Belonging and Mattering

Provides space for participants to feel a sense of identity. Outcomes emphasize participants finding and building upon support systems, affinity groups, and cultural configurations that feel comfortable to them.

What to look for:

  • Participants have time to talk and get to know one another. Activities and discussions encourage peer sharing.
  • Participants can adopt leadership roles. For example, the instructor might identify a student to lead a cooking demonstration or choose the recipe for the next class.
  • Activities that prioritize collaboration, group work, or teams, especially in youth curricula. These activities can be evidence of a Transformative or Developing curriculum.
  • Local implementers may identify curriculum as Transformative if it is especially well suited to engaging already-formed groups, such as older adults who regularly attend a congregate meal setting or parents whose children attend the same school. Participants might share that they enjoyed the workshop because they made friends or got to know others better.

Community-Centered Evidence Base:

  • A theme of our focus groups was that when parents successfully instill healthy habits, they enjoy sharing their successes and strategies with others.
  • The research on the link between loneliness, social isolation, and health outcomes is strong, especially among older adults. Any time we bring people together in SNAP-Ed, we can prioritize connection in addition to dietary health.



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