Enrolled participants receive $20-$40 each month in fruit and vegetable vouchers
Participants use their vouchers at participating stores to purchase fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
The program results in improved health, reduced hunger, and economic support for under-served communities
EatSF participants increase their fruit and vegetable intake by one daily serving – enough for immediate health impacts and a 10+% decreased risk of early death.
Markets see a greater demand and are able to stock better produce for everyone in the neighborhood.
Many people are not able to eat healthy fruits and vegetables because those foods simply aren’t available or affordable where they live. EatSF is changing that. EatSF provides free fruit and vegetable vouchers to San Francisco’s vulnerable low-income residents.
EatSF not only provides low-income residents the crucial resources to purchase fresh produce, but also transforms the marketplace. With more customers buying fresh produce, local vendors are encouraged to increase the variety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables they offer, benefitting all consumers in the neighborhood. With EatSF, people eat better, they improve their health and communities benefit.
Every month, families and low-income adults who are chronically ill receive vouchers totaling $20 to $40 from EatSF. We distribute vouchers and teach low-income residents about nutrition by working with local health clinics and community-based organizations that they already know and trust.
With EatSF, more customers buy fresh produce, and local vendors can increase the variety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables they offer. Everyone in the neighborhood benefits.
So far, thousands of San Franciscans have benefited from EatSF vouchers and are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables every week.
EatSF helps families extend their limited food budgets. Our vouchers tide people over during that difficult second half of the month when income runs out.
Participants say that the vouchers are a stabilizing influence in their lives. Knowing they will get the voucher, they worry less about where their next meal is coming from or how to obtain healthy foods for their growing children.
“I can now have food from the middle to the end of the month, so I always have food in my house.” – EatSF client
The EatSF voucher program helps low-income residents integrate more nutritious foods into their diets.
The weekly vouchers are time limited, so users develop the habit of shopping for produce regularly from stores located in their own neighborhoods. The vouchers give families a choice of healthy foods that fit with their culture and tastes.
EatSF partners with nutrition education agencies to help low-income residents learn more about how nutrients in food affect their health. A key element of the program is learning how to choose and prepare fruits and vegetables on a limited budget.
Just six months in the EatSF program, with our combination of education and food vouchers, helps people develop life-long healthy eating habits. At least 99% of EatSF participants are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of the program. In fact, two-thirds of participants have increased their daily intake by one or more servings.
Too few retail outlets in low-income neighborhoods sell healthy and affordable foods.
Many cities across the country are starting healthy retail initiatives, working with local store owners to see that fresh fruits and vegetables are stocked nearby where low-income residents can access them.
But many store owners find that produce doesn’t sell and regularly discard wilting fruits and vegetables because neighborhood residents can’t afford them.
EatSF distributes fruit and vegetable vouchers to low-income residents through local community organizations and clinics and works with neighborhood stores. Store owners in low-income neighborhoods who accept the vouchers say that EatSF has changed what food their customers buy. They are re-stocking fruits and vegetables more often and throwing away less. One store increased their produce sales by 90% after participating with the EatSF program. This allows them to increase the variety and quality of the produce they stock.
By increasing a neighborhood’s supply and quality of fruits and vegetables, our voucher system supports the healthy eating habits of both residents who use the vouchers and those who don’t use them, but shop in the same stores.
This also helps the neighborhood’s economy. Research shows that $5.00 spent on food vouchers results in $9.00 of local economic activity. EatSF vouchers must be used in two weeks, so investment back into the local economy is immediate, creating a multiplier effect. That $5 helps to pay salaries for store clerks, produce delivery drivers, and the farmers who grow the crops.
“We used to have the produce guy come twice a week. He’s here now five times a week.” – Store owner, Radman’s Produce
People living in low-income communities are often hospitalized for hypertension, heart failure and diabetes much more frequently than people in other neighborhoods and are 27% more likely to go to the hospital for low blood sugar during the 4th week of the month. This is the time when money runs out for food.
One hospital visit for a diabetic with low blood sugar costs $1,387, but it costs only $450 to supply an individual or family fruit and vegetable vouchers for a full year.
Individuals who are at risk for diseases affected by diet, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, can prevent health problems through nutrition and moderate exercise. EatSF helps low-income individuals and families buy the fresh produce they need to be healthier and thus spend less of their money on sickness.
This works for the community as well: more money spent on preventive care saves in long-term health care costs.
“The EatSF program is a win-win. It helps low-income San Francisco residents afford healthy produce, which improves health. It also helps address food deserts by supporting the ability of food vendors to stock healthy produce.” – Dr. Tomás Aragón, San Francisco Department of Public Health
Many organizations provide health and nutrition education so that their clients can manage their own health and prevent illness and visits to the public emergency room.
What has been missing is an ongoing means to get fresh produce that clients can access after the class and the coaching are over.
EatSF works as a natural addition to health and wellness and nutrition programs in other community organizations. Our program is easy for each site to integrate into their work flow, and the vouchers serve as incentives for participants to engage in their own health and welfare.
It’s easier for EatSF participants, as well. They can get nutrition and healthy living advice from care givers they already visit, then take their vouchers to a store near their homes and get the produce they’ve been advised to eat. A third of the EatSF participants who previously found it difficult to eat a healthy diet now say that it isn’t hard.