Weekly Feature

2018-04-11 / Business

UB grant to provide fresh food to underserved communities

Rep. Brian Higgins last week announced a five-year, $3.1 million federal grant from the National Cancer Institute for a project led by Dr. Lucia Leone, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.

The grant will allow the expansion of access to fresh food in underserved communities through mobile produce markets.

“Access to high quality, healthy foods is a real challenge for far too many,” Higgins said. “This project, which aims to reach people where they are, will help to drive successful outcomes in the advancement of healthier communities.”

According to Higgins, the new program builds off a smaller project Leone conducted with colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a postdoctoral fellow and faculty member before joining the faculty at UB.

The team recently published a paper in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity showing that mobile markets may help improve fruit and vegetable intake in lower-income communities. It’s the first published report of a randomized controlled trial for a mobile market. That study followed 142 participants in four counties in North Carolina.

The new funding will allow Leone and her team to expand their work by helping organizations across the Northeast and Southeast start mobile markets using the Veggie Van model.

They plan to work with at least one organization in the Buffalo area to start a new mobile market program or expand the reach of a current program.

“We want to test this program more widely to determine if the effects we saw in North Carolina can be replicated,” said Leone.

Through a request-for-proposal process, an advisory committee will select between six and eight organizations that will receive small grants to use toward either starting a veggie van or operating their existing one.

The money will help the organizations implement a best-practices toolkit to run their mobile markets more effectively and in a financially sustainable way.

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