Have You Heard of Fresh To You?

by Christina Hom BS, MPH’15
January 15, 2015

Christina is a member of the 2014-2015 TRI-Lab on Healthy Food Access. She, along with her TRI-Lab colleagues, are working towards improving the Fresh To You (FTY) mobile discount fresh fruits and vegetables market. 

“Have you heard of Fresh To You?” we asked as part of a recent survey of Public Health graduate students. ‘Yes,’ each answered. But how often do they use it? And what value does it hold for them? The varied responses we received will help us improve and deepen FTY’s impact in our community. 

Fresh To You (FTY) is a private-public organization that delivers discount fresh fruits and vegetables to Providence and the surrounding area. In particular, its goal is to reach those who do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables because their community lacks a supermarket, grocery store or farmers market. Kim Gans, PhD, MPH, LDN and Gemma Gorham, MPH, have conducted research identifying a number of barriers to accessing fresh fruits and vegetables: convenience, price, and quality.

From my experiences, I was not surprised. I grew up in a small suburban town in New York, where I had access to at least 4 supermarkets or grocery stores within a 15-minute drive from my house. When I moved to Providence, RI about a year and half ago, I found myself surrounded by a lack of supermarkets and grocery stores. The markets that I did have access to sold fresh fruits and vegetables at a higher price than what I experienced growing up. 

Accessing healthy fresh fruits and vegetables can be difficult for many graduate students like myself, particularly those with limited-to-no income. Furthermore, even undergraduate students experience this difficulty, especially those that no longer have access to a meal plan. According to our survey, among the public health students that have attended the markets, 44.7% occasionally shopped at the FTY markets, 10.5% shopped most of the time, and 7.9% always shopped compared to the 36.8% of public health students that have never shopped at the markets. When asked what they liked about them, 41.7% like the types of produce offered, 75.0% like the prices, 41.7% like the quality of produce, and 87.5% like that the markets are convenient.

For older adults living in independent housing complexes, shopping at FTY markets not only provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables; it also offers a social component. At one of the housing complexes FTY serves, one employee we interviewed commented that they “saw [residents] gathering, talking about recipes and getting together. I think [the market] brought them, a lot of them together.”

The community Fresh to You creates around food suggests the importance of continuing to discover new and innovative ways of delivering fresh fruits and vegetables to those who do not have access to them. In this way our surveys allow us to continue to learn, change, and improve FTY and better serve our communities.