Veggie Van; Effectiveness and Implementation of a Research Tested Mobile Produce Market Designed to Improve Diet in Underserved Communities
Topic area(s): Health Equity, Social Determinants of Health
For the current study, we will test the effectiveness of the Veggie Van model (mobile market program) across multiple communities using a cluster-randomized design and will document the implementation process to understand what factors are associated with dietary change and sustainability.
Mobile produce market programs are becoming an increasingly common strategy to improve limited food access in lower-income communities. However, few have been evaluated and even fewer have continued beyond the initial evaluation despite showing dietary improvements. Researchers have just completed a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of a mobile market (MM) program for distributing and selling affordable fruits and vegetables (F&V) in lower-income communities in North Carolina. The program successfully increased F&V consumption among adults, but more research is needed to determine if the program can be effective and financially sustainable when implemented by different organizations and with new populations. Veggie Van (VV) is a MM that sells affordable North Carolina-grown produce in communities with barriers to accessing fresh, local produce because of availability, cost, or lack of produce preparation skills. VV partners with local community organizations who are already reaching the target market (e.g., lower-income housing communities, community health centers, community colleges). Prices are offered on a sliding scale (with most customers paying the lowest price) and participants can use their EBT card, credit/debit, cash or check for purchases. VV was run by a non-profit organization and evaluated in partnership with our team. We randomized 12 community sites to receive the VV program or to serve as a delayed intervention control. F&V intake at baseline was 3.34 cups/day for control and 3.51 for intervention. Intervention participants also reported increases in perceived access to fresh F&V around the community site (p=0.02) and VV users self-reported positive changes including eating healthier snacks, less processed foods, and eating more healthy fats. These dietary improvements are remarkable compared to behavioral interventions promoting F&V consumption among lower-income individuals.
National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01CA215232
UNC Site Project Investigator: Alice Ammerman, DrPH