how it started
World Hunger Relief, Inc. launched the Veggie Van to address the needs of those living in food deserts in our community. A food desert is a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile. Research links them to diet-related health problems.
The food desert issue has received a lot of attention in Waco. There have been a number of assessments and community input meetings conducted about this issue but there has not been much action taken. WHRI staff attended as many of these meetings as possible and after careful thought and planning we believe that we are positioned to act in a way that will take us a step toward a healthier Waco.
WHRI is uniquely positioned to address the challenge of supplying healthy foods to those who live in food deserts in Waco. We have been involved in working toward the root issues of nutrition in our community for many years. Ten years ago WHRI completed an assessment of food issues in our area and determined from that assessment to pursue school gardening as a way to address a need expressed by the community and to develop relationships for future efforts at improving the nutrition of those in Waco.
WHRI is still working directly managing school gardens, we have handed over programs to other organizations, and have provided consulting on a number of other similar efforts. In these programs we have seen students eagerly trying new vegetables as they develop skills in gardening and food production. As students’ interest in healthy eating increased, we became more aware of these food deserts in our community. We encourage students to eat healthily but the environment in their neighborhoods and lack of access to fresh produce makes it difficult for their families to change their eating habits.
THE GOOD STUFF...TO GO!
The World Hunger Relief Veggie Van will allow us to sell vegetables for short periods of time when large crowds gather, i.e. at the end of the school day. This would allow us to keep our costs low, while providing vegetables in a way that is convenient to families.
We also plan to accept SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and plan on offering people who are eligible for SNAP a discount on produce. This will also allow people who can afford to pay full price access to healthy food while they help provide sustainable funding for the project.
Frequently, we have a surplus of certain vegetables due to the seasonality of growing vegetables. We have not always had an outlet for these vegetables and have not wanted to sell them at prices that undercut for-profit farmers at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. We will be able to provide these vegetables at discounted rates for those using SNAP at the Veggie Van without concern that we are unfairly competing other farmers. We will also be able to provide a whole variety of vegetables for those willing and able to pay full price.
In the future, operating costs will be lower as the locations for selling vegetables will be determined, the design of a van will be complete, and marketing will be less of a an issue as word gets out. We also will be able to offset a significant portion of these costs by the sale of vegetables and other healthy foods.
- 57,983 people in Waco live in USDA declared Food Desert tracts, 46.5% of the total population.
- In zip code 76704, 48.2% of people live below the poverty line average $16,673.
- African Americans in Waco also have a high unemployment rate of 15.3% and are a majority in 76704.
- 98% of students at J.H. Hines Elementary School are on free and reduced price lunch.
- Over half the households in 76704 have received SNAP benefits in the past 12 months.
- 22% of the households in 76704 do not have a car.
- 63% of people in McLennan county are obese or overweight.