Over the past several years our region has seen a rise in nutrition-related chronic illnesses like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes among Latinx populations. Washington County currently has the largest Latinx population in Oregon, many of whom lack access to healthy foods and culturally specific services.
In response, Adelante Mujeres, in partnership with CareOregon and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, have developed a successful program to help more Latinx families access fresh, locally grown produce and increase healthy eating habits.
“We know that within the Latinx population in Washington County that many barriers exist, whether it’s difficulty accessing fresh produce due to poverty or lack of transportation or difficulty receiving support and resources in language,” said Jen Martinek, CareOregon Strategic Business Partnerships Manager. “Partnerships like this target gaps specific to a community and population that lead to chronic health issues like diabetes and work to remove those barriers.”
The produce prescription program provides extra financial support to enrolled Virginia Garcia patients in the form of a Fresh Connect debit card that can be redeemed for only fresh fruits and vegetables at the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market.
The program offers each member in the household $24 per month to spend on produce. For a family of four, for example, $96 is deposited in their Fresh Connect debit card. Not only does this program provide access to nutritious foods for the Latinx community, but it also allows families and individuals to support foods grown by local Latinx famers and vendors.
During off-season when the Forest Grove’s Farmers Market is not in operation, participants can use their debit card at grocery stores like Fred Meyers, Safeway and WinCo. Adelante is also working to partner with other local farms to expand access to locally grown produce.
Another large part of this program is providing culturally specific services that are unique to the population. Culturally specific organizations like Adelante Mujeres and Virginia Garcia understand the cultural challenges and shared lived experiences of the Latinx community. This allows the knowledge and expertise to provide culturally specific care, resources and services in language, all while building community.
As part of the program, families and individuals receive resources and cooking and nutrition classes in Spanish to help teach healthy eating habits, help families navigate how to use their local, in-season produce in new recipes while also maintaining culturally specific and traditional recipes.
“One of the biggest issues that our community runs into is that a majority of the information about health and nutrition is provided in English,” said Mayra Hernandez, Adelante Mujeres Health and Nutrition Coordinator. “This is a major barrier for our primary Spanish-speaking population. That’s why it was important for us to develop a program that provides the information about health, nutrition and cooking resources, all in Spanish. This opens up a space where people can communicate what they need and have it be heard and met.”
Since 2014, this program has served hundreds of Washington County residents. Families are eating better and feeling better. Many have set new dietary habits and improved the quality of life for themselves and their families. They have increased energy and motivation. They are spending more quality time with family, engaging more in the community and sharing what they’ve learned with each other.
Most importantly, participants are experiencing overall improved health outcomes and needing less medication and less medical care.
In the future, Adelante hopes to expand this program into Hillsboro and other parts of Oregon to serve even more families.
“We are grateful for our partnerships with CareOregon and Virginia Garcia because we’ve been able to help so many more families with this support,” Hernandez said. “People who’ve been helped by this program have told me how much they enjoy the food that they’re eating, cooking and making themselves. The importance of healthy eating is to make it a lifestyle, and we’ve seen all the ways this program has helped our community create healthier lifestyles. That’s always the big hope—a healthy community.”
About Adelante Mujeres
Adelante Mujeres provides holistic education and empowerment opportunities to marginalized Latina women and families to ensure full participation and active leadership in the community. Programs focus on Food Sovereignty, Early Childhood Education, Health Equity, Family Engagement and more.
About Forest Grove Farmers Market
In 2005, Adelante Mujeres launched the Forest Grove Farmers Market, fostering cross-cultural exchange during this family-focused community event. They strive to provide an outlet for small farmers and food producers so that they may connect with the community by offering fresh, local goods.
About Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center
The health center serves the members of Washington and Yamhill county through access to high quality, culturally appropriate health care. Virginia Garcia serves more than 47,000 people in the community each year, with 18 clinics providing care in two
counties. There are more than 60 languages spoken at the clinics and our more than 600 employees work every day to provide high quality, culturally appropriate care to patients.