The Mental Health Center of Denver teamed up with Wholesome Wave – a program funded by WW (Weight Watchers) – to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables for individuals we serve and residents of the Northeast Park Hill Community.
To support wholistic well-being, the program was provided to adults and families of children we serve. We also worked with community partners to increase access to healthy foods in the Park Hill community. We worked with Robert A. Miller Educational Resource Center (RAMERC) and People’s Community Food Projects to provide this program to Park Hill residents.
This program was a testament to collaboration. The Mental Health Center of Denver implemented the program across our departments to reach people we serve. And the broader community was reached with support from our community partners.
Gift Cards, Food Prep Kits & Meal Planning Guides
Starting in February of this year, Wholesome Wave provided Wal-Mart gift cards to participants. The gift cards were automatically loaded with $50 a month over the course of six months. These gift cards could only be used for purchasing fruits and vegetables. Participants were provided fresh food preparation start-up kits and meal planning guides to further support healthy food choices.
More than 100 participants self-enrolled in the program from February through April and the program wrapped up in September. Putting technical card upload issues aside, the participants had positive feedback. Overall, participants felt this program made a difference in their well-being.
Partnering with Community Organizations
Approximately 60 participants were enrolled through two of our organization’s community partners: People’s Community Food Projects and RAMERC. These community programs also offered educational classes and support groups around nutrition, making healthy food choices and how to incorporate healthy produce into their diet.
About 50 participants were individuals served by the Mental Health Center of Denver. They accessed the program through our Child & Family Services, as well as the FitConnect program and diabetes clinic – each located at the Recovery Center.
“It makes me feel proud as a health educator to help people try new foods that can benefit their physical health which helps improve their mental health and well-being,” said Health Education Manager Jessica Vogle. “I actually had a participant cry because he was so grateful to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
RAMERC was unable to offer their “Healthy Changes” food education class since 2014 due to a lack of funding. Wholesome Wave gave them the opportunity to have a healthy food component in their organization.
“The program absolutely made a positive outcome for the individuals involved in it,” said Jocelyn Miller, the director of RAMERC. “The ability to talk about feelings and what we do when we are stressed (usually eating high-carb foods/sugar) was the first impact. Then to be able to connect how we eat and to have the ability to make different choices was very powerful.”
A few individuals who participated through People’s Community Food Pantry said it was clear what items qualified and didn’t qualify for purchase. This made it easy to choose eligible produce and check out smoothly.
“I love fresh fruits and vegetables,” one Mental Health Center of Denver participant said. “Sometimes they can be costly, and you may have to choose between that and some other things you need. So, this program was very helpful.”
“The program was really helpful,” another participant said. “I was able to get my family involved, and I was really happy about that.”