Healthy food creates healthy communities

In Arkansas, Well Fed battles food insecurity by providing healthy options and education

It’s often said that you are what you eat.

It’s also estimated that one in five Arkansans are food insecure. With a prevalence of diet-related illnesses and a recent reminder of the importance of nutrition to stay healthy, Well Fed is working to change those statistics for the better.

“We provide mobile access to food to those who need it through an expansive network of community partners,” says Joshua Harris, founder and executive director of Well Fed. “Our program offers a dignifying experience so those who are food insecure can make choices and learn how to incorporate nutrient-rich options into their everyday meals and snacks.”

Well Fed is based in Little Rock, AR, and focuses on combating food insecurity through mobile food access and education. Efforts began in 2018 with its signature program that operates on an entirely client-choice model—under which Well Fed helps a community partner, such as a neighborhood association, church, library or Salvation Army, set up a pop-up market of quality food for participants to come and choose the food they need.

For a brief period during COVID-19—and continuing now as an option for communities without these pop-up markets—Well Fed shifted to offer a mobile delivery version of its program, delivering boxes of fresh food to participants.

Food insecurity is commonly associated with four main diet-related illnesses: obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular issues. All too often, these issues are connected.

“What we put in our bodies is so important; it can contribute to a positive trajectory of health, or it can complicate it,” says Harris.

In late 2021, Enbridge gave $5,000 to Well Fed as part of our commitment to help create healthy, sustainable communities. The funding helps purchase healthy food for low-income residents of North Little Rock from local growers, minority-owned wholesalers and non-profit gardens.

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“It’s not only encouraging, but also dignifying for us to be able to strategically purchase quality, local food with this grant money and have that available to participants when they need it,” says Harris.

The best news? The program is working.

In just a six-month span, the number of Well Fed program participants who reported eating fruits or vegetables two or more times a day doubled (66% up from 33%). In the same period, participants significantly increased the rate at which they included fruits and vegetables five times or more per week in their meal preparation (42% up from 27%).

“The difference is having access and education,” says Harris. “We give them their choice of healthy food options and supplement it with recipes and cooking demonstrations to take home with them,” says Harris.

If recent data and Well Fed’s plans for two new programs incorporating health care professionals are any indication, things are looking up for Arkansans.

“If we can work together, we can find ways to really increase wellness and improve food intervention.”

(TOP PHOTO: Well Fed helps community partners, such as neighborhood associations, churches, libraries or Salvation Army branches, establish pop-up markets with quality food for participants to come and choose the food they need.)

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