EatFresh Evaluation Project
Many people today eat too many processed foods. They are less nutritious than fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But, processed foods are generally less expensive, which makes them a fallback choice for families with limited financial means. This is one reason why people receiving supplemental food assistance tend to consume fewer whole grains and more sugary beverages. Not surprisingly, several California counties report obesity rates that are 50% higher among users of the state’s SNAP program (CalFresh).
Since 2006, Leah’s Pantry has conducted cooking and nutrition workshops that have served over 5,000 low-income Californians. Leah’s Pantry also directs EatFresh, a web-based resource that aims to reduce chronic disease among the 5.3 million CalFresh-eligible Californians by encouraging healthy diets and lifestyles. The website offers recipes and nutrition information in multiple languages, teaches basic cooking skills, and encourages home cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables. Site visitors can share content, join in user forums, and pose questions to a dietician. Visitors can also discover local resources, such as farmers’ markets, that accept SNAP program cards.
Drawing on Aetna Foundation support, Leah’s Pantry now is using surveys, focus groups and data analysis to gauge the effectiveness of EatFresh and its potential as a national model. The organization is learning how EatFresh changes knowledge, attitudes and behaviors with respect to buying, preparing and eating fresh foods. Three California counties are integrating EatFresh into their existing social programs. The goal is to increase adoption of the project throughout California. The organization is sharing its findings at relevant conferences and in scientific health journals.
The California Department of Health (CDH) and other organizations have advocated for the EatFresh project, and the USDA highlighted EatFresh.org as having potential as a national model. Leah’s Pantry is currently working with CDH and several California Training Centers to integrate the EatFresh site with health-oriented web-based programs of California schools and health trainers.