Poverty, ethnic minority status, and rural residence are strong predictors of poor health. There are multiple contributors to high chronic disease rates, including food insecurity (lack of access to affordable, nutritionally valuable food) and unemployment. Rural poverty in the Southeast is exacerbated by reduced economic opportunity associated with agricultural transitions and historical loan discrimination against farmers of color. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 86% of the $2.7 trillion annual health care expenditures are to care for chronic conditions. Reducing food insecurity and increasing economic opportunity are key to combatting health disparities in low-income communities. We are pursuing a business model that provides healthy, affordable food and economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses in rural communities. Corner stores are significant sources of food in these communities but fresh produce and meats have a short shelf-life. Pre-packaged frozen meals are convenient and have a much longer shelf life but are traditionally high in sodium with few vegetables or whole grains. We propose a cost-offset or sliding scale model, in which locally sourced, healthy frozen meals (Good Bowls) are sold at a higher price in high- end stores and at a lower price in corner stores and at worksites. Using a franchise-like arrangement, Good Bowls, LLC in collaboration with a larger Value Added Processing Facility (VAPF) will provide the food production and distribution expertise, recipes, packaging, labeling, food safety, marketing, and general technical assistance to two smaller/rural VAPFs that will produce Good Bowls and sell them to both higher- and lower-cost food retailers. Good Bowls recipes, developed to promote an evidence-based healthful dietary patter (Mediterranean-style diet) were well received in a small pilot study by both high and low income consumers. By using traditional, lower-cost southern vegetables like sweet potatoes, collard greens, and peppers, we have created an affordable and well-liked product. Using grade B produce or ?seconds? will avoid food waste, give farmers more income, and reduce the cost of production. Good Bowls will provide the identical high-quality product to both lower- and higher-income consumers, just at different price points. Family size bowls will be available and our website (with links to the packaging) will provide recipes for all products and simple tips for healthy eating on a budget.
Specific Aims :
AIM 1) Viability of Good Bowls production in one larger/central facility near Chapel Hill and two satellite/franchises in rural, low income NC communities (customer satisfaction, production capability and cost, sales, and retail price points);
AIM 2) Early stage impact on food insecurity and nutrition (replacement of less healthy options and impact of supplemental web-based nutrition information/education) and AIM 3) Contributions to economic development in rural communities for farmers and small businesses (revenue and jobs creation).
Poverty, ethnic minority status, and rural residence are associated with poor health and food insecurity (lack of access to affordable, nutritionally valuable food). To address food-related health disparities, we will create healthy delicious frozen meals for sale in local corner stores using food from local farmers produced in local commercial kitchens and sold at a subsidized price. By improving community nutrition and job opportunities, we hope to improve the health of the community.