By: Emily Meissen-Sebellius, Project Coordinator, Weighing In
Jackson County is ranked 75 out of 115 Missouri counties for health outcomes. One of the biggest burdens in the county is the high rates of obesity and diabetes. The Partners 4 Health project sought to focus on two particular zip codes within Jackson County (referred to as the Linwood Corridor) that face significant challenges, particularly in key drivers of health. The area is considered a “food desert” and the rate of WIC authorized stores is significantly lower than Missouri state rates.
Increased access to healthy foods through mobile markets
The project began with receiving feedback from WIC participants that access to high-quality, low cost fruits and vegetables was a challenge. While several convenience stores and a few smaller grocery stores serve the area, the availability of fresh produce is at times limited, low quality and/or high in price. Because of a lack of full-service grocery stores in the targeted area, we focused efforts on access through two existing mobile markets. The Truman Medical Center Healthy Harvest Mobile Market (HHMM) sells fruits and vegetables to underserved communities. Rollin Grocer is a full service mobile market that brings a variety of groceries, including fruits and vegetables, to the urban core.
A key coalition partner, the Linwood YMCA, serves as a community hub for physical activity, community involvement, healthy cooking classes, and will soon be opening a healthcare clinic co-located at the newly renovated location. Through the coalition and leadership team, the HHMM added a new stop to its schedule to include the Linwood YMCA! This new stop provided increased access to high quality, low costs fruits and vegetables in the targeted area. The new stop was added at the beginning of the 2017 market season and has since steadily grown in attendance. Coalition members have worked together to promote the new HHMM stop and support our HHMM and YMCA partners. The leadership team is committed to continuing this work, and we will still meet monthly to brainstorm ideas and tweak our approaches for promoting and connecting community members to the HHMM, as well as other resources for healthy living.
Rollin Grocer has partnered with WIC team members to help adjust their inventory to meet requirements to be a WIC-authorized vendor. Rollin Grocer has submitted a pilot proposal to the state of Missouri to become WIC authorized and participated in a positive site visit with the state WIC director and vendor coordinator this year! While approval has not yet been granted from USDA, the coalition and leadership team are hopeful that pilot status will be granted for Rollin Grocer’s innovative model. The leadership team and coalition partners will continue to advocate for approval and will work with Rollin Grocer to promote healthy items that they carry. If Rollin Grocer is approved, we will utilize our coalition partners to spread awareness of this new resources for WIC participants.
Both markets have been engaged in sharing the coalition’s message about health- 12345 Fit-Tastic!- through print materials, grocery bags, t-shirts and new resources with healthy recipes, storage and prep tips for fruits and vegetables and chronic disease prevention information. We look forward to opportunities for the coalition to provide healthy lifestyles messaging and information to the mobile markets and for the coalition members to continue to promote the mobile markets to the families they serve, into the future.
Increased access to healthy foods through fruit and vegetable prescriptions
The Partners 4 Health leadership team has been able to align the work of this project with other interest in the community around food “prescriptions”. By leveraging other funds, we have been able to provide coupons to WIC participants in the targeted zip codes which can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the HHMM. The coupons are provided by WIC staff at WIC visits along with a fruit and vegetable “prescription.” By the end of June, more than 80 coupons will have been provided to WIC participants, along with information about the HHMM, to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and awareness of the new stop at the Linwood YMCA. In addition, healthcare providers from Children’s Mercy Primary Care Clinics have delivered about 300 food prescriptions to families who have been identified as food insecure. These prescriptions also include a $5 coupon to the family and information about the HHMM. In addition, the Linwood YMCA has been able to leverage grant funds to provide an additional 500 coupons to the HHMM for community members. We are excited to continue to move forward with these opportunities throughout the market season. Our next steps are to begin a qualitative evaluation to understand facilitators and barriers to using the coupon at the mobile market by working with researchers at Children’s Mercy’s Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition. Our leadership team will continue to meet to inform these efforts, and we are looking for future opportunities to utilize technology for food prescriptions and/or to promote mobile markets, as well as continuing to explore the intersections of healthy lifestyles and food insecurity.
The momentum and focus created by this project has allowed us to align with existing efforts effectively. We look forward to continuing the efforts above through our coalition with support of the leadership team, which plans to continue meeting monthly. In addition, we are excited about furthering the relationship between Children’s Mercy and TMC-WIC with a new WIC clinic opening at the Children’s Mercy Primary Care Clinic in July. In May, WIC staff delivered training on the WIC program to healthcare providers in the Primary Care Clinic, which provides nearly 17,000 well-child checks annually. The leadership team looks forward to ongoing opportunities to connect and carry forward the project objectives through this new co-location. The leadership team is also looking forward to future opportunities through the new onsite clinic at the Linwood YMCA for community clinical linkages.