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Local Roots Program Increases Access To Fresh Produce for Rural Older Adults

More older adults have access to fresh affordable produce in Chautauqua County, NY! Why? Because of the partnership between SNAP-Ed NY with Office for Aging Services.

According to the National Institute of Health, over half of older adults to not consume the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings each day. There are multiple reasons for this decreased intake of fruits and vegetables. Older adults living in housing units often have limited access to transportation to grocery stores. Often times, older adults go 1-2 times per month to a grocery store. They often limit quantity of fresh produce due to it’s perishable nature as well as the bulk or family size packaging often found at the grocery stores. Additionally, farm stands and farmers markets tend to be located in the more populated regions of the county and therefore our rural older adults depend solely on monthly or bi-mothly trips to the grocery stores for their fresh produce.

Local Roots is a community supported agriculture (CSA) style program through Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services (OFAS). Office for Aging Services Local Roots program works with a local grower, Abers Acres, to procure the produce. SNAP-Ed NY Coordinator works with Jamestown Public Market, Jamestown Meals on Wheels, and Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels to transport the produce to the most vulnerable and isolated older adults in this rural county. SNAP-Ed NY also provides nutrition education on topics around using and preparing fresh produce as well as increasing fruit and vegetable intake.

The program runs for 10 weeks during the summer growing season. Participants would call OFAS office to register. At registration, clients would commit to a weekly pick-up at one of 12 convenient locations with a specific time of pick-up throughout the county for the duration of the program. They were provided with cost-share guidelines based on income for each week’s CSA pack. At registration, participants were provided a reusable tote and a CHQAging card with a QR code on the back with directions to bring these two items to each weekly distribution. Participants would scan the QR code at pick-up in order to track number of CSA produce pick-ups to be billed for each month.

The local grower designed each food pack to include about $10 worth of produce in portion sizes appropriate for a single older adult. The OFAS communicated to the local grower the total number of registered participants for each week. There were 5 pop-up sites on Tuesday in the middle to northern part of the county, 5 pop-up sites on Thursdays in the southern part of the county, 1 distribution through the OFAS home-delivered meal program to individual homes, and 1 pop-up location on Saturday in the southern part of the county. Each pop-up location lasted for 30 minutes. Many of the pop-up locations were hosted in the parking lots of older adult housing units throughout the county.

Participants were provided not only with print nutrition education materials, but also provided access to virtual nutrition education materials with the use of their CHQAging card. The participants were educated on using the QR Code on the back of the CHQAging card by scanning with personal device. The scanned QR code would take the client to a virtual nutrtition education such as “What’s Cooking with Wendy” or “NYSOFA Ask the Expert: Nutrition Edition”. The card remains in the possession of participant beyond the end of the Local Roots program, and participants can continue to access monthly virtual nutrition educations materials that change monthly.

As a result of Local Roots:

– There were 11 Pop-Up sites weekly for 10 weeks, lasting 30 minutes at each pop-up location

– 300 older adults recieved a weekly CSA style produce pack for 10 weeks.

– 3,000 CSA style produce packs were distributed over the course of 10 weeks.

– 300 older adults received printed nutrition education materials

– 300 older adults received access to monthly virtual nutrition education such as “What’s Cooking with Wendy” or “NYSOFA Ask the Expert: Nutrition Edition” through the CHQAging card

Participants now have improved access to fresh and locally grown produce. Additionally, these older adults are provided with nutrition information on the benefits of increasing fruits and vegetables in their diet along with new approaches to using fresh produce. We are excited to continue and expand upon current efforts in the 2024 growing season by partnering with rural Faith-Based Organizations (FBO) to host as additional pop-up locations and increase participation.

By making simple and healthy choices on a daily basis, you will be well on your way towards achieving optimal wellness. We know the healthy choice is not always the easiest choice, but small changes can make a big difference. Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services offers Nutrition & Wellness programs to help you in your journey toward total wellness. Please remember to contribute toward your OFAS Nutrition &Wellness programs if you can. These programs are not sustainable without the support of participant and community contributions. Be aware that SNAP benefits can be used toward your contribution. Call NY Connects at 716-453-4582 for more details and information about any of these Nutrition and Wellness programs provided by Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services.

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