The St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO), which runs the St. Johns Farmers Market, has been investing in food equity work to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low income community members since 2010. For the past 9 years, we have distributed thousands of dollars to low income St. Johns residents through the Veggie Voucher program and over $40,000 in SNAP matching benefits at the market. The Veggie Voucher program is an independently run program through SJCO, where 9 partner organizations distribute up to $30 per person per month to use for fruits and vegetables at the St. Johns Farmers Market. In 2018, we are serving 117 families.
One of those partner organizations is the North Portland Multnomah County Health Clinic. We sat down with Adriana Cardenas, a Community Health Worker, to learn more about the impact of this program on her clients and the community. For over 5 years, the clinic has been a partner organization distributing Veggie Vouchers to patients. Over the years, Adriana has seen a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the individuals accessing these services. The nurses and providers are very involved in the process, taking the time to get to know the patients and their health risks, as well as their financial situation. At the end of the month, she knows that many of her clients run out of food stamps and the extra money provided by the vouchers make all the difference. She explains “A lot of people count on the vouchers, it has definitely impacted a lot of our patients”. She has also seen community and relationships grow around healthy eating habits, through the voucher program and wellness classes offered by the clinic. She sees patients saying “Let’s go to the farmers market together and get veggies together”. They’ll share recipes with each other and clinic staff to use new types of veggies that they’ve never cooked with before because they haven’t been able to afford them until now. As one Veggie Voucher recipient explained, “I like that it limits it to just vegetables. For me that’s an incentive to eat more vegetables. I’ve lowered my A1C. I’m a cancer survivor so my doctors are really on me about eating more vegetables. I have the best recipe for vegetable soup than anyone in the world now. I get my vouchers and I make a huge pot and eat it every day."
When we asked about Adriana’s hope for the future of this programming, she explained that she hopes “the funding continues and that the people who provide the funding understand how much it is impacting our patients and our patient’s health. I really want to advocate for this for the future. It makes a huge difference! As a Multnomah County Health Center, our nurses and our doctors would gladly advocate for the future of this program. It makes me happy to see our patients happy. It has been a blessing to have this program.”
Join us to keep this impactful program going strong for years to come at the St. Johns Farmers Market. Hundreds of families depend on these supplemental resources to bring nutritious fruits and vegetables to their tables each month. Click here to donate today! $10 will help one family match their SNAP food benefits at the market AND you'll be entered to win a sweet set of local self care prizes including massage, yoga, crossfit and more!