the nutrition problem: Obesity
Obesity contributes to 1 in 5 deaths in the United States, and the problem starts in childhood. Child obesity causes many health problems that used to only be seen in adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. These health problems lead to early death and disability in adulthood. Obese children are also more prone to low self-esteem, bullying, negative body image, and depression.
One-third of children in the United States are overweight and obese, and the numbers are even higher in low-income populations. In North Long Beach, over 50% of 5th grade children are obese or overweight. The causes of obesity are complex, but much can be traced back to a lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
PARTNER & PROJECT LOCATION
The Growing Experience (TGE) is a beautiful 7-acre urban farm operated by the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles. It is located within the the grounds of the Carmelitos Housing Development, which provides subsidized housing for low-income residents of North Long Beach. The farm practices sustainable farming methods, and their mission is to provide affordable, fresh, locally grown, organic produce to the community.
The goal of TGE was to grow organic produce in the community and provide it for the community at an affordable price. Despite their efforts, community acceptance was low. TGE offered large garden boxes filled with healthy fruits and vegetables at a very low price, but few residents engaged. Almost all of the produce was leaving the community, going to upscale restaurants and middle to upper-income households. To achieve its mission, the farm needed a way to connect with its own residents within the Carmelitos community.
Applying our approach
We started by talking to Carmelitos residents in a focus group. We learned that they had mistakenly thought the farm was for "outsiders." We also learned about what they were buying and eating, and why.
Working closely with TGE's team, we changed the name of the CSA box to "The Carmelitos Farm Veggie Box." We knew that mothers needed to know their kids would be full after meals and that no food would be wasted, so we changed the contents of the Veggie Box to offer more familiar fruits and vegetables.
With our findings, we designed a social marketing strategy to encourage the residents to take advantage of TGE's resources. We needed to change their perception of the farm and appeal to a sense of fun and community pride. The original sales pitch of "local, organic, and sustainable produce" did not resonate.
To re-introduce TGE to the Carmelitos community, we held the first annual Carmelitos Cookoff, a cooking contest featuring contestants from Carmelitos and fresh vegetables from TGE's farm. Residents got a chance have fun, sample TGE's vegetables in a positive environment, and sign up for Veggie Box subscriptions.
what we've achieved together
Through the event we created new relationships between TGE and the Carmelitos community that continue to increase TGE's impact. The cooking contest transformed the relationship between residents and the farm and exposed an even wider range of residents to the farm as spectators, participants, and collaborators in making the event a success. The first batch of cooks went on to become stewards of the program.