A new method of increasing the quantity and consumption of vegetables in the homes in these communities is called CSA or Community Supported Agriculture, which gives residents the opportunity to buy a "share" of a local farm's vegetables at the beginning of the growing season, which they can pick up in boxes, weekly, once the produce is harvested. The feasibility of this type of program was testing on a specific community by a CDC study to determine if it worked. The vegetable "shares" were paid for by a community center through donations. The larger purpose of the study was to find ways to ease health disparities within these communities.
Fruit and vegetable consumption helps prevent chronic diseases responsible for the major causes of illness and death in the United States (1–3). Despite the known benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, the typical US diet fails to meet recommendations (1). Substantial disparities in fruit and vegetable consumption exist by region, race, and income (4); these are mirrored in disparities in health outcomes and disease prevalence (5,6). Source
Compared with a control group, the participants in the Farm Fresh Healthy Living program reported a greater variety of fruits and vegetables in their households at the end of the season than did the control group. There was no difference in fruit and vegetable intake, though a trend toward higher consumption in the intervention group was observed. The greater number of fruits and vegetables present in food inventories of intervention participants demonstrates that the intervention increased the diversity of foods available to families. A larger sample size or a more sensitive data collection instrument for dietary intake may have demonstrated a significant effect on fruit and vegetable consumption. Source
Participants picked up their food an average of 9 of 16 weeks. Although the pick-up schedule was more generous than is the case with other CSA programs and accommodations were made for participants’ schedules, these efforts may have been insufficient to adjust the program to the life situations of low-income women. Many women worked multiple jobs and lacked workplace flexibility. Some depended on multiple buses to travel to and from the pick-up point, and they struggled to transport the produce box on the bus. Such issues that prevented full participation are consistent with those observed by other researchers (17,24)
When I've lived where access was more difficult, or not readily convenient, or the quality of the vegetables was poor, I bought less and made fewer attempts to visit the store since it wasn't enjoyable. If the quality isn't there, or the prices are ridiculous for what you get, or it takes too much effort to get to the store, or it's a hassle with parking or long lines at the cashier, the more convenient option is to eat out, order in, or rely on packaged foods. I've felt that high quality vegetables and fruits increase consumption, and poor quality ones repel people. In fact, sometimes restaurants actually have better access to higher quality vegetables and fruits, since they are delivered, than the grocery stores in or near the same community.
Although the study didn't see a statistically relevant result for increased consumption, it's hard to expect people who have not had regular access to good produce to immediately start incorporating them into their meals. It takes time. They have to develop new recipes and get used to the flavors. Good ingredients slowly start to replace bad ones, but when access, quality or prices interrupt the adoption of plant-based ingredients into the diet, it is less likely that they will become permanent fixtures.
This study was very useful and the program has potential for success, but it needs to be fine-tuned and done over a long period of time so that the participants get used to and enjoy making plant-based ingredients a common and frequent part of their meals which will eventually lead to a reduction of the health disparities we see in these communities.