In 2020, researchers from the Center for Social Science Research (CSSR), George Mason University's Department of Nutrition, and Columbia University collaborated with DC Greens and DC Health on an evaluation of the Produce Plus Direct (PPD) program. The Produce Plus program, administered by DC Greens and the District of Columbia Department of Health, provides access to free produce to DC residents who qualify for at least one government assistance program (e.g., SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC).
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Produce Plus provided vouchers to customers to use at participating farmers markets. During the 2020 season, Produce Plus shifted to providing primarily grab-and-go prepackaged produce via pickup or home delivery through contracts with 17 vendors. This multi-method evaluation, which included customer interviews and surveys and an analysis of participation data, examined customers’ experiences with the new version of the program, including the program’s influence on participants’ food access and food consumption.
Most customers surveyed (80 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that PPD made it easier for them to access fruits and vegetables. More than half of customers (57 percent) said that PPD had introduced them to fruits and vegetables they had never tried before, and 55 percent reported that they ate fruits and/or vegetables they normally wouldn’t eat because of their involvement with the program. We also explored, through a qualitative analysis of customer conversations, the ways that group-level social interactions among program participants helped to ensure the program was accessible and accountable to the primarily Black communities that it serves.
For more information about this project, please contact Katie Kerstetter at kkerste2@.gmu.edu.