Eric is a senior studying community health with a concentration in Health Administration and Planning. He pursued this course of study because he wants to make a difference in the health outcomes of disadvantaged populations. He previously worked with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club where he designed and presented an interactive health game to help young people conceptualize the amount of sugar in sweetened beverages. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in Epidemiology to work in public health practice for nonprofit organizations.
In 2009, Experimental Station, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, piloted Illinois’ first Link Match program, which provided a one-to-one dollar match on eligible foods purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Now, as many as 96 communities in Illinois have implemented the program at their local farmer’s markets, expanding healthy food access to people across the state. In 2017, Experimental Station partnered with the Cook County Health & Hospital Systems (CCHHS) to open the Fresh Food Markets in three low-income health centers. At the Cook Country Fresh Food Markets, SNAP participants can take advantage of the Link Match program to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables.
Eric worked with Dr. Chelsea Singleton and Experimental Station this summer on a project to assess the demographics, shopping behaviors, and fruit and vegetable consumption of low-income adults who use the Cook County Fresh Food Markets. They used customer intercept surveys to collect this pertinent information in addition to information about market satisfaction. Experimental Station distributed and collected the surveys. Eric’s role in the research project was to input survey data into a database, analyze that data using SAS, and compile a literature review on food accessibility and vegetable prescription programs. Singleton works alongside the community organizations involved in the area of nutritional equity to address food justice issues in Illinois with the true needs of the community in mind.
Eric’s work with Singleton and Experimental Station provides evidence to support the need for and effectiveness of the Cook County Fresh Food Markets. For example, 75% of survey respondents said that using the Link Match program at the Cook County Fresh Food Markets has increased their fruit and vegetable consumption. Programs to increase healthy food access to low-income adults rely heavily on public support. Having data to show the positive impact that the program has in the communities it serves girds public confidence, makes a case for expansion of the program, and provides insight into potential interventions and research directions.
Eric came to understand and appreciate how lack of resources impacts the community and the importance of improving food access for the health of the community. He also gained valuable professional experience with data collection and analysis. While Eric’s work was more data-driven than some of the other scholars, he was still able to see the impact this research had on the community. “Reading their handwritten responses and seeing their input, I was able to imagine myself at that farmers market and understand the problem much more than I would have from just, for example, hearing a lecture.”