Food insecurity, being without access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, is 14.6% in the state of Oregon. A study conducted by the Oregon Food Bank in April 2018 found that food pantry recipients suffer from diet-related disease at a higher rate than the general public: approximately 27% of households have a least one member with diabetes and 48% with high blood pressure (of those households, over 34% have a member aged 65+).
The study also found that 72% of the people who receive food from the food bank have income below the federal poverty level, and of the households that utilize food pantries, 80% are able to meet their food needs for the month. According to the Hunger Factors Report (2015), 55% of food pantry clients say that cost is the biggest barrier to eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
In Crook County, 15% of residents are food insecure, according to the 2018 Feeding America census. Of this population, 11% do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal assistance programs. The need in Crook County is especially relevant as the only Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) food pantry in Prineville recently closed along with their pop-up pantry, and according to Feeding America, Crook County has the highest cost per meal in the country at $6.20. Feeding America reports for each person in need of food, Crook County food programs provides 61 meals annually per person through emergency food distributions to meet the gap between household food budgets and what is actually needed to provide adequate food for an individual.
In Deschutes County, 13% of individuals are food insecure and 30% of those do not qualify for federal assistance. Deschutes County food programs provide 67 meals annually per person. Both Deschutes and Crook counties are below the state median of 90 meals served to help meet the meal gap, driving the need for more food to be distributed in both of these counties*. (*Feeding America’s Meals per Person in Need (MPIN) report released quarterly to Feeding America partner Regional Food Banks).
Veggie Rx is a produce prescription program that reduces economic barriers for families to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. These produce prescription programs have been operating in Oregon since 2014, and by the end of 2018 it is projected that 3,000+ patients will be served in over 30 cities across the state. According to the recommendations set forth by the Oregon Community Food System Network to the Oregon Health Authority, “Veggie Rx has been shown to improve patient health outcomes and quality of care using objective metrics that are capable of producing verifiable results and achievements which can be documented through electronic health records. Such programs have also been found to produce a statistically significant reduction in HbA1c levels over a 12 month period for patients with Type 2 diabetes and food insecurity. Veggie Rx, and similar programs that seek to improve food access for low-income populations, have resulted in improved fruit and vegetable consumption and, in some cases, improved food security”.
Over the next two years (2019-2021), HDFFA will expand a vegetable and fruit prescription program in Bend and implement a new one in Prineville to address food insecurity and food access, and improve patient health for 350 residents experiencing diet modifiable diseases. This will be accomplished by implementing: In Bend, A) a seasonal 8-week program at the farmers market where participants receive vouchers for produce from market vendors. This program takes places June-October; 29 total sessions. Participant start dates will be staggered to maximize personal interaction throughout the program. In Prineville, B) a monthly or bi-monthly program will take place in conjunction with NeighborImpact’s new “Fresh to You” mobile food pantry where participants receive ready-to-make meal kits that include pantry staples, fresh produce, and spices. Participants will attend 8 consecutive sessions over the course of 4 months; participants will be admitted year-round. For both sites, HDFFA will provide personalized nutrition education and grocery store tours. Produce for the Prineville model will be grown locally and bought at wholesale cost. This allows us to serve more participants per dollar, with comparable fresh food volume, through the Fresh to You model.
In addition to VeggieRx, the Fresh to You mobile pantry will build NeighborImpact’s capacity to distribute fresh and frozen produce to underserved areas. The sole effort of its kind in the region, the mobile pantry will deliver healthy food to Central Oregonians in identified areas where food pantries do not meet residents’ needs. The Fresh to You truck is refrigerated and fully-laden with goods and display racks which will park at designated areas, including health clinics located in underserved food deserts in the rural tri-county region. Mosaic Medical will partner with NeighborImpact to refer patients to the mobile until and provide on-site support. Our collaborative effort allows both organizations, HDFFA and NeighborImpact, to work from their strengths, utilize existing relationships, resources, and amplify community impact. HDFFA has the ability to provide nutrition education, a facet that NeighborImpact currently does not have the resources to offer. NeighborImpact provides a hub to reach an underserved community. This model intentionally offers services and resources in places that are convenient for participants.