Community Benefit

Breaking Down Barriers: Connecting Residents with Fresh Produce

June 11, 2018

Breaking Down Barriers: Connecting Residents with Fresh Produce

When it comes to eating healthy, small barriers can prevent people from making healthy choices. By eliminating those barriers people can begin to improve the choices they make. That’s why CHI Health launched the Farmer’s Market Voucher program in Harrison County, Iowa.

What Did Research Reveal?

In 2011, the Community Health Needs Assessment found Harrison County, Iowa, ranking 94 out of 99 counties overall in health outcomes[1]. With 31.9% of adult population in the county being obese[2], and 89.2% of adults reporting consuming less than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily[3], it was clear that Harrison County needed help.

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 fruits and vegetables were available in the county, and lower income families were not purchasing them anyway. Instead, families in Harrison county were opting for the convenience of fast food.

The Solution

To address this community health need, CHI Health developed and launched the Farmer’s Market Voucher program in 2016 to address two key barriers.

The two key barriers to the consumption of fruits and vegetables are:

  • Transportation
  • 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, are distributed by community agencies to families in need of fresh fruits and vegetables. Educational sessions around knife skills, food prep, nutrition education and many more informational topics are also included within the program.

How the Program has Changed Lives

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 be able to select what they wanted.

I am passionate about this program because obesity and chronic health issues plague our rural residents. By removing barriers to accessing healthy options, we hope that this program can help break the cycle. The ability to make healthy choices starts by exposing children to fresh produce.

Living Our Mission

What if kids enjoyed fresh fruits and vegetables as much as fast food? 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 was accessing healthy foods on a daily basis. Thanks to our Farmer’s Market voucher program, nearly $4,000 was spent on fresh produce by families and individuals in need during 2017.

The Farmer’s Market voucher program also:

  • Distributed 375 voucher packets, each worth $20, to Harrison County organizations
  • Had 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.

Resources:

[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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