Most of us have easy access to and the means to afford fresh fruits and vegetables, which is fortunate because they contain important vitamins, minerals and plant nutrients. We know that a diet high in fruit and vegetables can help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
Unfortunately, low-income households do not always have the means to add these healthy options to their diets. As a result, their consumption of fruits and vegetables are often far below the daily recommendations for adults and children. Many factors create this disparity, most especially access, availability and cost. For many, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is just too high for their budget. Others may have to walk or ride the bus to get groceries, so they scrape by on the bare minimums. For yet others, the only stores nearby are convenience stores, so they have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Therefore, while most of us take a trip to a well-stocked grocery store for granted, for many Tucsonans that is a luxury.
The lack of consumption is affected by many factors, including access, availability, cost, convenience, and perishability. Cost is of higher importance to low-income Americans than the rest of the population and they buy only what they can afford. This does have a negative effect on the health of low-income adults and children. While most of us take a trip to the grocery store for granted, for many low-income Tucson residents, purchasing fresh broccoli or a head of lettuce can mean a half-day journey or, sometimes, may not even be possible at all.
Our solution at Compass Affordable Housing (CAH) was to bring the market to our tenants and implement Your Healthy Home Market (YHHM), where up to 3,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables and other perishables are delivered to tenants every month. Under the program, we deliver fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, proteins, beans and other fresh food directly to tenants living in our low-cost apartment communities where tenant volunteers run a “market” to distribute the food at no cost to them. Tenants also unload trucks, set up the market, handle distribution and clean up afterward. In addition to weekly deliveries, the market is supplemented by produce from the large vegetable garden located at Compass Affordable Housing’s Alvord Court Apartments, which provides housing for persons with a variety of physical and mental disabilities.
Each “Market Day” YHHM opens with a class taught by a nutritionist or specialist who talks with residents about preparing and storing produce, monthly budgeting, food and health, cooking techniques, food combining, meal planning, and recipes. After the class, tenants then “shop” for food.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market had to close temporarily, but the vegetables did not go to waste. Instead, CAH staff delivered food door-to-door to CAH tenants and started delivering to other agencies needing food. Produce not distributed to CAH tenants was delivered to local not-for-profit homeless shelters, street outreach centers, a local soup kitchen and a school for homeless youth. We continue to make these deliveries.
Over 52% of CAH tenants actively participate in Your Healthy Home Market. In addition to fighting hunger and bringing healthy food close to home, tenants volunteer in other CAH services as well. Twenty two percent have completed financial literacy, employment and/or public benefit support activities, 25.5% received other support services and referrals and 20.1% volunteered for other community activities. Since starting YHHM CAH has observed increased tenant involvement in program/social activities/events, volunteering, and social engagement. The business center and employment readiness services were also more widely utilized.
Although the food is free to low-income households, we do incur expenses for food, transportation, drivers, supplies and oversight. Compass Affordable Housing depends upon private donations to support Your Healthy Home Market and its operations.
Please donate today! Your summer donation to Compass Affordable Housing’s Your Healthy Home Market is tax deductible and it does so much more than help with expenses, it feeds people. That is what is important and I thank you for help.
Maryann Beerling, CEO
Our Contact Information:
Compass Affordable Housing, Inc.
48 N Tucson Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85716