Community Benefit

Breaking Down Barriers: Vouchers and Transportation Connect Residents with Fresh Produce

June 11, 2018
Bob Valentine

Author:

Breaking Down Barriers: Vouchers and Transportation Connect Residents with Fresh Produce

Sometimes, a seemingly small barrier prevents people from making healthy choices. Eliminating that barrier can improve the choices people make. That’s the premise behind the Farmer’s Market Voucher program in Harrison County, Iowa.

In 2011, the Community Health Needs Assessment found Harrison County, Iowa, ranking 94th out of 99 counties overall in health outcomes[1], with 31.9% of adult population in the county as being obese[2], and 89.2% of adults reporting consuming less than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily[3]. With this data, a discussion started around the barriers county residents face when it comes to purchasing and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. A survey showed very few fresh fruit and vegetable options were available in the county, and lower income families were not purchasing them anyway — instead opting for the convenience of less healthy fast food options.

To address this community health need, CHI Health developed and launched the Farmer’s Market Voucher program in 2016 to remove two key barriers to purchasing and consuming fruits and vegetables: transportation and affordability.

With the assistance of SWITA, free transportation is provided weekly to the Welcome Center Farmer’s Market and Mid-Week Market in Missouri Valley, Iowa, throughout the summer.

CHI Health funds voucher packets, worth $20, that are distributed by community agencies to identified families in need specifically for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with educational sessions around knife skills, food prep, nutrition education and many more informational topics.

Last summer, several local residents expressed how appreciative they were to have access to fresh produce. Many were older and unable to drive. They felt good about being able to access nutritional foods – and especially being able to select what they wanted.

I am passionate about this program because obesity and chronic health issues plague our rural residents and removing barriers to accessing healthy options may very well help break the cycle of obesity and chronic illness.  Building healthy habits starts with the ability to make choices, and exposing children to fresh produce can help set them up for a lifetime of better health.

Living Our Mission

What if kids enjoyed fresh fruits and vegetables as much as fast food? They might, given the opportunity. What if access to transportation helped an older resident, on a fixed income, bring home healthier groceries?

Improving access to healthy choices – especially in rural areas – is a key way to address childhood obesity and chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

As part of CHI Health’s mission to create healthier communities, we routinely reach into communities to address local needs. In this case, it’s difficulty accessing healthy food options. Thanks to our Farmer’s Market voucher program, which provides transportation, vouchers, and education, nearly $4,000 was spent on fresh produce by families and individuals in need during 2017.

  • 375 voucher packets, each worth $20, were distributed to Harrison County organizations
  • 199 families and/or individuals redeemed the vouchers

The voucher packets are distributed to Harrison County organizations, including Heartland Family Services, West Central Community Action & Women & Infants, Dunlap Senior Center, Logan Food Pantry, Missouri Valley Food Pantry, Mondamin Food Pantry, Woodbine Community Center, Harrison County Home & Public Health and Cullivan Heights.

[1] County Health Rankings. 2018. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/iowa/2011/rankings/outcomes/overall

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2013. Source geography: County

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Accessed via the Health Indicators Warehouse. US Department of Health & Human Services, Health Indicators Warehouse. 2005-09. Source geography: County

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