by Eileen Weber
Wholesome Wave is at it again. With a $600,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente, they will be expanding their farmers’ market programs to eight new locations worldwide. The funding will primarily support its Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP). That program has been a major step in bringing fresh, local produce to the very people who need it most. Perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s always healthier to get your tomatoes fresh-picked from the vine than to convince yourself they can be found in a can of Chef Boyardee.
“We at Wholesome Wave are so grateful for Kaiser Permanente’s support, which is allowing us to take these next, vitally important steps towards increasing the accessibility of nutritious foods throughout America’s food-insecure communities,” said Michel Nischan, president and founder, Wholesome Wave in a recent press release. “Wholesome Wave and Kaiser Permanente have a shared mission of building a healthier future, and this generous partnership will allow Wholesome Wave to nourish neighborhoods across America.”
Wholesome Wave plans to initially expand the DVCP nationwide to at least four new states. Available at 160 farmers’ markets in 20 states, the program enables households that use federally funded Food Stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) coupons to double the value of their grocery coupons when purchasing fresh produce at a farmers market.
The grant also will enable Wholesome Wave to plan for an expansion of its Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx). This program aims to bridge the gap between physicians providing advice in the clinical setting and changing individual behavior by providing “prescription coupons” that can be redeemed at the patient’s local farmers market.
In a previous article on this site, we discussed Wholesome Wave’s involvement with the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County’s healthy food initiative to provide women from the Mercy Learning Center access to fresh produce. While the group showed excitement about the fresh food, it wasn’t because they were unfamiliar with it. It was because they usually can’t buy it. In many cases, these women need to make three separate bus transfers in order to find a farmer’s market.
“Access to healthy food is powerful prevention, and that’s what Wholesome Wave is all about” said Loel Solomon, Ph.D., vice president for community health, Kaiser Permanente. “This partnership makes so much sense because we have such closely aligned values and aspirations. We both believe that everyone deserves access to healthy, affordable and sustainably grown food and we both know how important that is for people’s health, and the health of our planet.”
Kaiser Permanente’s employee wellness program, Healthy Workforce, was responsible for funding the grant. The California-based company contributed $50 for each employee who took a health risk assessment. With over 23,000 employees participating, the company raised a total $1.2 million. Part those funds will go to Wholesome Wave and part of it will go to the National Assembly for School-Based Health Care in Washington, D.C.
Studies have shown that eating well is the key to a healthy lifestyle. And, an increase in fresh produce and a decrease in processed foods can make a difference in the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. With those illnesses affecting not only our adult population but, in many cases, our children, finding a way to connect consumers with fresh food is essential to making a change in the way we live.
Certainly, children exposed to healthy foods on a regular basis have a higher likelihood of making better food choices than if they are surrounded by pre-packaged goodies with a nine-year shelf life. Fresh veggies, good. Twinkies, not so much…
Image courtesy of Flickr.com.