World Hunger Relief, Inc. initiated the Veggie Van, a mobile farmers market that increases access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables for people who live in “food deserts,” or geographic areas where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, in the spring of 2015 and currently offers about 10 weekly stops at churches, schools, and other social service organizations around McLennan County.
Undergraduate and graduate epidemiology students in the Baylor Public Health Program have been working with World Hunger Relief to collect data on the Veggie Van since January
2016 to try to understand more about Van customers. They use a 5 minute survey to capture basic demographic information like age and educational attainment, fruit and vegetable consumption on a usual day, food purchasing practices, potential barriers to healthy eating like cost or time, Veggie Van usage, and customer recommendations for the Van. As a small token of appreciation for their time, Veggie Van customers who participate in the survey receive a $5 voucher to purchase more fruit and vegetables from the Veggie Van.
Survey design was a partnership between Kelly Ylitalo, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the Baylor Public Health Program, and Matt Hess, Executive Director of World Hunger Relief, Inc. Results of the survey will be used to inform and customize Veggie Van services in McLennan County to increase Van awareness and utilization. Dr. Ylitalo also hopes that the results of the survey can be used to inform other mobile farmers market programs around the country, and eventually be used to design a health intervention for Van customers in the Waco area. Epidemiology students who participate in the data collection process are contributing to a local community organization, learning more about hunger and food in their community, understanding how to collect health-related data, and developing a deeper appreciation for health-related data—that there is a face behind every number.
The schedule for the Veggie Van can be found here: http://worldhungerrelief.org/veggie-van/.