A Healthier Wisconsin

Leveraging Trusted Relationships Between Community and Farmers to Increase Healthy Food Access

Increasing healthy food access in low-income communities of color in Brown and Manitowoc counties

Full Project Name:Leveraging Trusted Relationships Between Community and Farmers to Increase Healthy Food AccessPrimary Community Organization:WelloPrimary Academic Partner:Leslie Ruffalo, PhD, Family MedicineAward Amount:$199,998
Award Date
Project Duration:18 months

Project Description Narrative:

Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with better health outcomes, including decreased heart disease and cancer rates. Despite advances in understanding the systemic barriers to healthy food access, diet-related health problems continue to affect low-income communities of color disproportionately. It is essential that new approaches to increasing access to healthy food look to community-led solutions because the individuals living with these challenges are best equipped to surface effective solutions.

This project seeks to implement and refine an innovative, community-led system for increasing healthy food access and individual produce consumption in a target population of low-income communities of color. The proposed system builds upon a unique distribution model that leverages trusted community resource centers and their in-depth understanding of their client communities to serve as distribution centers for locally sourced produce.

The project builds upon two successful COVID-19 relief projects that activated Brown County community resource centers, We All Rise African American Resource Center, and Casa ALBA Melanie to distribute locally sourced produce boxes and farmers market incentives through their client networks in the summers of 2020 and 2021. This new system specifically addresses gaps in healthy food access that community partners reported: equity and logistical barriers inherent in pantry and farmers market programs, the stigma associated with accessing pantries and market benefits and produce quality and selection. The new system also emphasizes trust and dignity and is centered on the needs of food recipients.

Researchers look to empower local farms to play a major role in meeting local food needs while simultaneously working to eliminate inequities in healthy food access. Data from this project will be used to inform funding for local food security programs and develop trusted channels for health promotion efforts that will ultimately help eliminate health disparities seen in Black and Latinx populations in Brown County and Manitowoc County.

Community partners: Casa ALBA Melanie, Crusaders de Justicia, MCW School of Pharmacy, Seasonal Harvest, UW-Madison Division of Extension Brown County, Wello, We All Rise African American Resource Center

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

  • Implemented the food distribution project with three partner resource centers
  • Collected 191 surveys and completed check-in calls with partners to obtain feedback about the program
  • Developed a partnership with statewide Local Food Purchase Assistance Program (LFPA) to enhance the program efforts and partnerships

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