The providers at Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic are champions in their community. As clinicians and administrators, Tom Waddell employees support some of the most underserved and vulnerable residents of San Francisco. The clinic’s clients are often without housing and many suffer from substance abuse, mental health issues, and other chronic health conditions. By partnering with EatSF, Tom Waddell is able to provide their clients with vouchers for fruits and vegetables, both reducing hunger and improving health.
Many of the clinic’s patients are disabled and subsist on social security income (SSI) payments of approximately $900 per month. In California, SSI recipients are not eligible for SNAP benefits (food stamps). This means that their food budgets are often extremely slim, especially given the high cost of living in San Francisco. “A lot of our clients are on fixed incomes. Food security is a major health concern for them,” says Moises Vega, the EatSF Program Administrator at Tom Waddell. “Many of our clients were eating primarily junk food, and poor nutrition definitely impacts their health,” Vega says. “EatSF gives them the opportunity to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
Angela Winn, a primary care provider and HIV specialist at the clinic, agrees that EatSF has been a big help to her patients. “Nutrition is a big issue for our folks, especially our patients who have multiple diagnoses. It’s really good to have EatSF available as a resource to them,” she says.
The produce vouchers offer another benefit for many of Winn’s patients, some of whom report feeling a loss of autonomy due to the assistance they receive. EatSF vouchers enable participants to go into a store and make a healthy choice about what they want to eat. For many, there is a feeling of empowerment that comes from this simple act, and from knowing that they are capable of taking care of themselves.
The Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic has been instrumental in the growth and success of the EatSF voucher program in the Tenderloin. Likewise, EatSF has proven a positive resource for the clients of the clinic, far beyond providing a healthy choice of food.
EatSF partners with front-line community-based organizations and clinics such as Tom Waddell so that vulnerable residents can receive vouchers conveniently from clinicians they know and trust. And it works. EatSF participants increase their food security and boost their fruit and vegetable intake by at least one daily serving or more – enough for immediate positive health impacts.
“You can tell people about eating well, but it’s another thing to provide them with an actual resource to improve their health. It’s tangible. We don’t often find that,” Winn says.