In February 2018, EatSF launched a pilot program called Vouchers 4 Veggies in the MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Last month, staff conducted a focus group with participants and received overwhelmingly positive feedback as well as constructive comments on ways to improve.
EatSF is proud to partner with the AARP Foundation, whose generous support prompted our San Francisco-based fruit and vegetable voucher program to expand to Los Angeles to focus on alleviating hunger among seniors. With a rapidly growing senior population, food insecurity in the United States is projected to increase by 50% by 2025 as the Baby Boomer cohort ages to 60 and older and interventions such as healthy food vouchers are potentially part of the solution.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of food insecurity, as they have limited mobility to travel to food stores and may have high health care costs, forcing some to make difficult choices between buying food or medicine. By providing seniors with extra resources to buy fruits and vegetables, Vouchers 4 Veggies has the goal of not only eliminating the need for these tough budgetary decisions, but also improving health in the long run by lowering medical costs so they no longer interfere with an individual’s ability to afford food.
“Budgetary constraints” was a common theme brought up in the recent LA focus group. “The bottom line is that, really, sometimes we don’t have extra to buy vegetables and fruit,” said Hannah, a Vouchers 4 Veggies participant. For her household, the $10 per week helps her buy more healthy produce than she would ordinarily be able to. She says, “We [are] grateful. Let me put it in big letters. I AM GRATEFUL.”
Vouchers 4 Veggies is already showing progress towards reaching its intended goals and improving food security for MacArthur Park’s seniors. The program is fortunate to have dedicated staff and community partners locally, such as the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, who are helping us become embedded into the community, introducing the program and navigating relationships with vendors and other community partners. At EatSF, we look forward to expanding our reach even further in Los Angeles and beyond.