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VT Fresh: Transforming Community Food Pantries to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Jul 29, 2018

Overview

Vermonters facing hunger eat more fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to VT Fresh. VT Fresh is a program of the Vermont Foodbank. VT Fresh improves access to and promotes fruits and vegetables. The Vermont SNAP-Ed Program supports VT Fresh. In 2017, SNAP-Ed supported VT Fresh in 17 community and mobile food pantries. The pantries distributed over 309,000 pounds of produce.

Challenge

Vermont is one of the healthiest states in the nation, but over 6 in 10 Vermonters are overweight (35%) or obese (25%). These statistics are even greater among low income Vermonters. Plus, most food pantries have limited resources to buy, store, and display fresh produce.

Solution

Since 2014 VT Fresh has helped community food pantries promote health. Through making fresh fruits and vegetables available and displayed.

VT fresh provides nutrition education to inspire clients to make healthier choices. The program provides cooking lessons and taste tests. These lessons feature produce that is available in the pantry. These lessons inspire pantry visitors to choose, prepare, and eat more fresh produce. The lessons address healthy cooking, basic nutrition, and food safety.

To encourage clients to make healthier choices, VT Fresh helps pantries set up displays that emphasize fresh food.  They include prompts with improved displays, signage and promotion of produce.

VT Fresh  directly reached more than 2,000 low income Vermonters. VT Fresh taste tests and food demos, reached  50,000 food pantry visitors. Visitors experienced fresh produce display strategies designed to inspire them to choose fresh produce. In 2017, VT Fresh conducted a survey of people who tried food at food demos. The survey showed 64% of people had an improved opinion of the food after they tried it.  73% of people said they would be more likely to eat the fruit or vegetable again.

stand of fruits and vegetables

“Most shoppers do take produce when it is prominently displayed and attractive looking. Also, having produce only shopping [days] increases produce consumption. The policy was originally enacted to reduce waste, but if shoppers are able to come in extra trips and only take produce it certainly ends up upping their consumption.” – VT Fresh Partner Food Pantry

Sustaining Success

SNAP-Ed and the Vermont Foodbank will continue to strengthen the program. They plan to expand to new locations. The VT Fresh model has inspired similar programs in at least 14 states. The model promotes healthy food choices among vulnerable populations in Vermont.


The story was submitted my Michelle Wallace, Director of Community Health and Fresh Food Initiatives. For more information, contact Michelle at mwallace@vtfoodbank.org, or visit www.vtfoodbank.org