Challenges to accessing and consuming healthy food are not confined to San Francisco. 1.4 million residents of Los Angeles experience food insecurity or the lack of consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy life. Many low-income seniors often receive SSI or SSDI benefits, a fixed income that does not account for the higher cost of living in places like LA. “Since they are all on a fixed income, $20 [each month] made a big difference,” explains Andrea, case manager at Parkview on the Park Apartments (Parkview) in the MacArthur neighborhood of LA. What might seem a meager amount to some is making a big difference to others.
Parkview Apartments is described by staff as a place where residents are like family to one another. As soon as the word got out about the Vouchers 4 Veggies (V4V) program, the word quickly spread amongst residents. Staff even observed residents who did not previously engage in services expressing interest in the V4V program. Seniors often live alone or experience more isolation, so vouchers, “gave [staff] an opportunity to catch up with the residents.”
The V4V program gives participants the freedom to shop at partner stores of their choice and buy food that best meets their needs. While some Parkview participants enjoy shopping at smaller corner stores, others enjoy shopping at larger grocers. Participants have different strategies of purchasing produce including buying frozen because it lasts longer or going to one store for their favorite fruit and buying the rest of their produce at a cheaper store. “They would tell me what they would buy, some of them would show me what they would buy. They really liked it,” Andrea exclaims. The V4V program allows participants to cater to their food preferences at their own convenience.
Though in a new city, the V4V program in LA is working with community-based organizations, like LA Housing Partnership, to meet the same needs that exist in San Francisco. We are excited to hear similar stories of the impact V4V is making in the lives of individuals and communities in LA – increasing access and affordability to fruits and vegetables one neighborhood at a time.