AHA Philadelphia Increases Access to Healthy Food in Local Neighborhood to Address COVID-19 Hunger Crisis

In Philadelphia, 1 in 5 residents are nutrition insecure, which has detrimental short- and long-term implications on health outcomes, including but not limited to hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Exacerbated now by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an unprecedented need for emergency food relief, especially in neighborhoods that already had high rates of food insecurity, such as Sharswood in North Philadelphia.

Sanctuary Farm is a farm and farmer’s market in Sharswood that provides low-cost produce to neighborhood residents. In collaboration with Sanctuary Farm and with the generous donations of individuals and corporations, AHA Philadelphia launched a community-based voucher program in April 2020.

Through this collective effort, Sanctuary Farm has reached 500 unique individuals through the distribution of 1,000 produce bags since April 2020. Each week, families receive six, free produce items, along with AHA nutrition education handouts, safe physical activity recommendations, and heart-healthy recipes to accompany produce bags. For residents who are unable to visit the farm stand due to high-risk conditions posed by COVID-19, Sanctuary Farm will make home deliveries.

There are resources to extend the program through October 2020, but a funding need still exists in order to continue the program through the winter months. The global pandemic has created an even more critical need for this work because as a Sharswood resident stated, “you all are not just feeding us — you’re healing us.”

AHA Philadelphia stands ready to work with individuals and organizations dedicated to fulfilling the mission of building a world of longer, healthier lives. To get involved, please contact Jennifer Litchman-Green at jennifer.litchman-green@heart.org.