- Author: Chutima Ganthavorn
- Author: Emma McKellar
- Author: Marlyn Pulido
- Contributor: Michele Byrnes
UC-led partnership resulted in over 29,000 pounds of fresh produce being distributed to 900 students and limited resource families in Coachella in 2018. More than a quarter of participants reported being more food secure.
The desert city of Coachella has a population of 6,919. Seven-hundred and sixty-one residents do not live within 10 miles of a supermarket or have a car, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Research Atlas. In an effort to increase healthy food access and close the food gap in the area, CalFresh Healthy Living at University of California (CFHL-UC) teamed up with Food In Need of Distribution (FIND) Food Bank to bring fresh produce to the students and families of Cesar Chavez Elementary School.
How UC Delivers
CFHL-UC partnered with FIND in 2018 to bring CalFresh enrollment support and food donations to nutrition class participants at the Coachella Valley Adult School. In the spirit of partnership, CFHL-UC introduced FIND to Cesar Chavez Elementary School with the hopes of bringing more resources to families in the area. With staff and teacher support at Cesar Chavez Elementary, CFHL-UC delivers a spectrum of services to help influence individuals to live healthier lifestyles including nutrition and physical activity education for both children and parents using evidence-based curricula (Go, Glow, Grow; Plan, Shop, Save, Cook; and Coordinated Approach to Child Health). Environmental and policy efforts include Smarter Lunchrooms Movement resources to increase student breakfast/lunch participation, local school wellness committee collaboration to offer wellness policy support, and this recent partnership with FIND Food Bank to increase access to fresh produce.
“When I bring the food home, my mom is happy because she does not have to go to the grocery store.”
– 3rd Grade Student at Cesar Chavez
As a result of the UC-led partnership and collaboration, FIND Food Bank made Cesar Chavez Elementary a food distribution site for their summer food donations. This included five events, with an average of 150 families attending, which helped feed an average of 690 people in 2018. Cesar Chavez was the highest attended distribution site that FIND serviced in 2018. Due to this success and need, FIND now provides monthly food distribution for the students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. This year, FIND distributed over 29,000 pounds of fresh produce for 900 students to take home and share with their families. CFHL-UC staff highlighted the produce by supplying recipe cards from EatFresh.org for families to be able to make nutritious, easy, and inexpensive meals.
In addition, CFHL-UC helped increase food security and healthy living for program participants by teaching food resource management skills. Participants in the Plan, Shop, Save, Cook series reported making behavior changes such as planning meals ahead of time (44% of 124 survey respondents), comparing unit prices (40%), shopping with a grocery list (35%), and using Nutrition Facts to make food choices (54%). Importantly, 27% of participants were less likely to run out of food before the end of the month. This program is one example of how UC ANR improves food security, contributing to the public value of safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians. CFHL-UC aims to continue working in Coachella and collaborating further with FIND Food Bank to increase access to healthful foods at other sites in need.