Mobilizing Markets: Community Efforts to Decrease Food Insecurity in Meadville, Pennsylvania
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Dawson, Rebecca S.
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The rural town of Meadville, PA is considered a food desert and issues of food insecurity are a root cause of numerous chronic health problems. In 2014, 26.1% of Meadville residents were living in poverty and nearly 13% have poor nutritional status as a result of food insecurity. Meadville is categorized as a food desert according to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quantitative definition of a food desert. Seventy percent of adults within the Northwest part of Pennsylvania, which includes Meadville, were overweight or obese in 2014 and it is estimated that the childhood obesity rate is greater than 30%. In an effort to both increase access to fresh produce and reduce the obesity rate in Meadville, a comprehensive community wellness initiation was begun in 2014. To date community gardens have been started, a fresh fruits and vegetables program has been piloted in a local elementary school, and a mobile farmers market has begun. In this presentation, we will specifically discuss the design, implementation, and assessment of a the community garden project, the school programs, and the mobile farmers market that targeted a low-income neighborhood. We will discuss the development of the survey instruments used to assess each of these initiatives and highlight how bringing fresh produce into a school and low-income neighborhood increased social capital in addition to access to produce. Ultimately, we will show how the pilot mobile market (conducted during the summer of 2016) was used as a proof of concept idea for a larger scale mobile market that is being created in collaboration with the local bus company. All of the work we are doing is aimed at increasing access to fresh produce in Meadville in order to improve both community and individual health.