More than one million Californians, many in low-income communities, live without access to grocery stores, or other sources of fresh and healthy food. California produces over half of the country’s fruits and vegetables, yet California faces a food insecurity rate of 23.7 percent. The food insecurity rates for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are even higher.
These communities are not only impacted by negative health outcomes as a direct result of a lack of access to fresh, affordable healthy food options, but have also seen decades of disinvestment and high rates of unemployment. This lack of investment indicates that limited food access is not simply a health issue, but also a community development and equity issue. This has been made even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which BIPOC communities have been disproportionately affected by the negative health and economic impacts of the virus.
Over the last three years of the California FreshWorks program, PCV has conducted an impact evaluation for Community Vision, the CDFI which administers the program statewide. We’ve learned insightful lessons about how to create flexible financial products and connect organizations with local services to cultivate catalytic impact for businesses and nonprofits often labeled as “high-risk” for investment. The lessons that are detailed in this report reflect a significant program redesign which took place in 2016 and enabled greater flexibility, responsiveness and investment into critical community innovations to ensure healthy food access.