As the COVID-19 crisis continues across the country, our mission has come into focus more than ever before: Americans need access to nutritious, affordable food, and the information to make healthy decisions.
Here’s how The Food Trust is tackling food insecurity on the front lines, providing resources to communities in need, and ensuring that no one should have to choose between eating healthy and eating enough:
Farmers Markets and Food Bucks
As the pandemic continues to evolve, The Food Trust’s farmers markets have become even more critical community access points for affordable, healthy food. Our three year-round markets (Clark Park, Fitler Square and Headhouse) have remained open throughout the COVID-19 crisis, with additional safety precautions put into place to keep customers, farmers, staff and volunteers safe, including instituting senior/immunocompromised shopping times at all open markets. Visit thefoodtrustmarkets.org for a complete listing of weekly market dates and locations.
The Food Trust’s Food Bucks network provides a crucial safety net for families relying on SNAP, so we continue distributing these coupons at farmers markets, grocery stores and corner stores. To minimize person-to-person contact and travel for SNAP shoppers, we are working with a local healthcare partner to mail Food Bucks Rx (fruit and vegetable prescriptions) to patients.
With schools and community sites closed indefinitely, The Food Trust’s nutrition education team has shifted to an entirely virtual learning model. Our Online Learning Hub, launched May 11, serves as a resource center for caregivers, families, educators and individuals, and includes original video content, healthy recipes, recommended physical activities, cooking demonstrations, shopping tips and much more. The site is updated every Monday morning with fresh content to help families active and nourished during these challenging times.
Healthy Food Retail and Fresh Food Financing
Corner stores and other food retailers are dealing with unprecedented hardships as essential businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the generosity and flexibility of our funders, we have been able to repurpose grant dollars to provide immediate relief to stores. The Food Trust is offering local corner store owners and other small food retailers the opportunity to apply for mini-grants, which will help stores in low-income communities to stay open or reopen, and assist with immediate general operating needs to ensure the safety of their communities and staff.
In addition, store owners are being encouraged to apply to the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (PA FFFI), a statewide funding program managed by The Food Trust, to secure an additional one-time grant and/or loan to increase access to healthy, affordable food in lower-income and underserved communities. The Food Trust is supporting partners with similar grocery financing programs in Massachusetts, Kansas, the Deep South and at the federal level.
Our staff are now offering fully remote support for food retailers, as well. We connect with business owners on a regular basis via phone calls and group text messages to share important updates and resources. Staff are also supporting partners to build healthy food retail strategies through COVID-19, providing interactive webinars and training about how to leverage resources and relationships to support stores during these challenging times.
Since 1992, The Food Trust has been working to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.
The Food Trust's comprehensive approach includes improving food environments and teaching nutrition education in schools; working with corner store owners to increase healthy offerings and helping customers make healthier choices; managing farmers markets in communities that lack access to affordable produce; and encouraging grocery store development in underserved communities.
Understanding the Importance of Food Access
"We know that a lot of things contribute to poor nutrition and obesity, but access is a key issue," says Dr. Giridhar Mallya. "People don't have the ability to get healthy foods in their community at an affordable price. That makes it that much harder for them to be healthy overall."
At The Food Trust, we work on programs and policies supporting healthy food access wherever food is sold or served. We encourage healthy retail development in underserved communities, teach kids how to eat healthy in schools, host cooking demonstrations at recreation centers, run farmers markets in neighborhoods, support farm to school initiatives, and provide incentives for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. All of these things combined is what can improve the health of people and our neighborhoods.