The government has been targeting Spanish speakers with radio “novelas” promoting food stamp usage as part of a stated mission to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.
Each novela, comprising a 10-part series called “PARQUE ALEGRIA,” or “HAPPINESS PARK,” presents a semi-dramatic scenario involving characters convincing others to get on food stamps, or explaining how much healthier it is to be on food stamps.
The majority of the episodes end with the announcer encouraging the listener to tune in again to see if the skeptic applies for benefits or learns to understand the importance of food stamps to their health.
“Will Claudia convince Ramon to apply for SNAP?” the announcer exclaims at the end of a standard episode titled “The Poet,” “Don’t miss our next episode of ‘HAPPINESS PARK.’”
While the United States Department of Agriculture encourages its outreach partners not to stereotype SNAP applicants, the agency’s use of novelas is notable. The USDA is not promoting an equivalent English-language drama series and telenovelas are a popular form of entertainment in Latin American countries and a culturally relevant way to appeal to potential applicants.
The radio novelas are available on USDA’s website for state and local outreach partners to use as public service announcements.
In addition to the Spanish-language outreach, the USDA is also pushing to get non-citizens enrolled in the program. The radio novelas overcome one of the hurdles the agency has identified as hampering participation: “lack of knowledge” about the program.
“Although many non-citizens are now eligible for SNAP, SNAP participation has been historically low among eligible non-citizen households,” reads a 2011 Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility. “In 2008, the participation rate for non-citizens was 51% and the rate for citizen children living with non-citizen adults was 55% as compared to the national participation rate of 67% among all eligible individuals.”