Attempting to Close the Food Gap: An Evaluation of the 2011 Fair Share Program in Gettysburg, PA
Background: Families in Adams County with an income between 160% and 250% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines and ineligible for federal food assistance programs were determined to be in the “food gap.” In collaboration with Adams County Farm Fresh Markets and the Center for Public Service at Gettysburg College, the Adams County Food Policy Council developed the Fair Share Program to provide monthly food vouchers and educational sessions to a group of families in the food gap to use at farmers markets in Gettysburg, PA. The goals of the program were to provide families not eligible for federal food assistance with an increased ability to purchase healthy foods, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, support local farms the local economy, and provide nutrition education and support.
Purpose: We sought to identify the effectiveness of the pilot Fair Share Program in reaching its goals and to determine ways to improve the program in the future.
Methods: 25 families who participated in the Fair Share Program during the summer of 2011 were given surveys at the start of the program, and interviews were conducted with participants at the end of the program. Surveys were given to the participating vendors at the farmers markets at the conclusion of the program. A bivariate analysis of the participant survey was done comparing results from Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants using SPSS Statistics 17.0, while the vendor surveys and interviews were evaluated qualitatively.
Results: There were several noteworthy differences between the habits and perceptions of the Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants, including fruit and vegetable consumption patterns, reasons for not shopping at the farmer’s markets, and where food is typically obtained from. Interviews indicated that both participants and vendors had overall positive experiences with the program even though challenges including price and language differences were experienced.
Conclusion: The Fair Share Project reached its goals and had a positive impact on the community. Improvements should be made if the program is to be continued in the future to address the challenges participants faced while participating, and there is strong support for continuation and extension of the program.