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Evaluating the Benefits of a SNAP-Ed-Funded Community Garden Intervention Using Ripple Effect Mapping


Sadeghzadeh, C.; Sheppard, B.; de Groot, J.; De Marco, M.


In North Carolina, rural communities experience high rates of chronic illness due to health inequities exacerbated by the decline of major industries. Community gardens increase access to fresh produce and opportunities for physical activity and may offer additional benefits. These benefits can be difficult to measure as they are often unplanned or unintended. This article describes how we utilized Ripple Effect Mapping (REM), a participatory approach for evaluating complex interventions, to understand the impact of a SNAP-Ed-funded program. We purposively selected six community gardens to participate in 2-hour, facilitated REM sessions. On average, 15 people participated in each session. Participants developed a map of benefits using Appreciative Inquiry, mind mapping, and consensus-building methods. The map organized benefits across three levels: first ripple (individual), second ripple (interpersonal), and third ripple (community). In addition, participants coded benefits using the Community Capitals Framework. After the sessions, the research team extracted identified impacts into a matrix, aligned them with the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, and developed digitized maps. These data corroborated findings from previous evaluations and offered insight into community-identified benefits not previously documented, including other types of capital generated by community gardens in rural communities. In addition, REM was an effective approach to measure and report several SNAP-Ed evaluation indicators, including LT11: Unexpected Benefits. Ultimately, the research team found REM to be an effective community-engaged method for understanding a complex intervention’s benefits while centering participant community voices and transferring ownership of the data to community partners, a key principle in equitable evaluation. © 2021 Society for Public Health Education.


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