Partnerships with supportive housing buildings like The Madonna are key to providing people in the Tenderloin the opportunity to engage with one another and with their community around healthy food. The Madonna Residence is one of the many supportive housing buildings in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that serves primarily low-income, senior occupants. A supportive housing site is a multi-tenant building that houses 1-2 people in individual rooms. Residents often have limited kitchen facilities. Some participants at these sites live in rooms with small kitchens, while others share kitchen facilities with other residents. Some supportive housing sites do offer services and resources to residents, such as nutrition education or healthy cooking classes. Still, the list of barriers to accessing fruits and vegetables is long for this community — a community often isolated due to limited physical mobility, poor health, disability, and social anxiety. In addition, the cost of fruits and vegetables and the lack of access to retailers selling fresh produce near where they live often further inhibits this community from eating the food necessary for their health and well-being.
Over the past two years, EatSF has partnered with The Madonna to provide over 50 of their senior residents with fruit and vegetable vouchers. During that time, The Madonna staff have observed a surprising increase in the overall socialization of their residents. Sara, the Service Coordinator of The Madonna who is responsible for distributing the vouchers and implementing the program, notes that EatSF participants come outside of their doors to interact with other participants, behavior not previously observed. In addition, Sara often overhears participants engaging with one another in conversations about fruits and vegetables. For seniors often living in isolation, this was an unexpected yet terrific outcome of the program.
Not only does EatSF provide participants with vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables and an opportunity to engage in conversations about healthy eating with one another, it also provides a space for residents to receive counseling around healthy eating when vouchers are distributed and through regular check-ins with staff. Without EatSF vouchers, staff note that it is difficult to find opportunities to engage in these conversations about healthy eating with their residents.
By partnering closely with supportive housing sites in low-income communities, EatSF not only provides an opportunity for individuals to improve their health and access healthy food, but it also provides a way for people to engage in creating healthier communities.