The Multnomah County-REACH program and Mudbone Grown LLC. (a local black owned farm) collaborated on a Community Supported Agriculture program to help provide fresh produce to Black community members in our region. In order to get a gauge of the eating habits of the interested participants, REACH staff administered preliminary surveys to each of the interested participants.
Based off of the findings of these surveys, we were able to identify what the eating habits were for these community members. 42 of the respondents answered a question about how many cups of vegetables they ate daily, with the average response being 2.2 cups per day. 41 of the respondents answered a similar question in regards to their daily consumption of fruits, with an average of 2.1 cups per day. These survey results showed that there was a need for increased access to healthy food for the Black community in Multnomah County.
In order to increase healthy food access for African American and African immigrant/refugee communities, we designed a CSA program to provide 50 weekly food shares for Black families within Multnomah County. It was our hope that the program would promote behavioral change for the participants' diets. Our vision was to use nutrition as a means of promoting healthier eating habits and chronic disease management.
Working with a local and Black-owned farm was a tremendous help towards the success of the CSA program. Mudbone’s farmers were able to specifically tailor the crops of their harvest for the CSA to align with the fruits and vegetables that are traditionally eaten by African Americans and African immigrants/refugees.
We were able to use multiple communication strategies in order to support this effort, which included: the creation of a recruitment flyer, social media promotion, and more!
Your Involvement is Key
From a community standpoint we would like to encourage all African Americans/African immigrants/refugees living in Multnomah County to incorporate fresh produce into their regular diets, if they are able. Encouraging chronic disease management is a key component of the work we do with REACH. By eating fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis you are taking the first steps towards living a healthier life. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check .
By collaborating with Mudbone Grown on this project, we were able to provide CSA shares to over 69 families throughout the full duration of our CSA season. While we cannot guarantee long-term behavioral changes, by exposing individuals to new produce options and increasing their access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it is safe to assume that they are more likely to make these a part of their diet moving forward.
We will be able to sustain the success of our CSA program by connecting these participants with existing community programs that will continue to support them in having fresh fruits and vegetables continue to be a regular part of their diet.
The Oregon Food Bank currently has a program that residents of Gresham and Southeast Portland can access in order to receive nutritional support that is similar to our REACH-Mudbone. This free food market is a nutritious supply of fresh produce and pantry food to low-income individuals and families. Every household receives around 45 pounds of healthy food—with the bulk of it being household staples such as eggs, beans, grains, etc.
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“It inspired me to spend more time in the produce aisle in the grocery store. It also inspired my husband to plant a garden in our backyard for the first time. In the past when our kids were small and we were pressed for time, I never really spent the time I should’ve buying fresh produce. Just knowing the difference in taste and the health benefits now, this is something I’m going to keep on doing,” said Phyllis Smith.