University Extension SNAP-Ed loses staff

Sixty-seven of 152 employees will not be returning to their jobs.

Allison Kronberg

University of Minnesota Extension eliminated about 44 percent of its Supplemental Nutrition Education Program employees on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Until now, University Extension has avoided cutting employees from SNAP-Ed, formerly known as Food Stamps, since the program relies almost entirely on its employees to fulfill the needs of citizens throughout the state, said University Extension Dean Beverly Durgan.

“We’ve gone through a lot of budget cuts and we’ve never laid off people,” Durgan said. “So doing this was very difficult.”

Federal funding cuts of almost 30 percent imposed by the American Taxpayer Relief Act and the uncertainty of federal funding from the Farm Bill have impacted the SNAP-Ed program — which educates low-income people about active lifestyles and healthy choices on a limited budget — since the beginning of last year.

But, after cutting costs and exhausting all additional funding, Durgan said, University Extension made the decision to cut staff and reorganize the program for a regional system in order to maintain statewide coverage.

Before the job cuts, there were nutrition educators in almost all 87 counties, she said, and after the cuts, educators will rely more heavily on collaboration and have less one-on-one interaction with citizens.

Most SNAP-ed program staff re-applied for their positions in December, but 67 of the 152 employees will not be returning to their jobs.

“Educators will now be expected to cover a lot bigger region than they did at the county level,” Durgan said.

The department has worked to hire internally before advertising the jobs outside the University, she said. The new regional system of full-time employees will take effect next week.

For more on University Extension’s staff cuts, pick up next Wednesday’s Minnesota Daily.