Veggie Van (VV) Toolkit

Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo

Overview

The Veggie Van (VV) Toolkit is a policy, systems, and environmental change intervention designed to:

  • Increase access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables in lower income and/or food insecure communities
  • Help the target population improve their diets through skill building
  • Address the interplay between the physical food environment, individual perceptions of that environment, and self-efficacy
  • Address multiple dimensions of access to fresh produce for lower-income and under-served communities, including availability, affordability, accessibility (geographic and financial), and accommodation
  • Improve self-efficacy for finding, purchasing, and preparing fruits and vegetables or other healthy foods via cooking and nutrition education interventions

VV achieves these goals via mobile farmers markets that present cooking demonstrations, recipes, taste tests, and nutrition education to help customers better use the produce they receive. VV mobile markets also accept SNAP benefits, electronic benefits (EBT), and other relevant local food incentive and benefit programs, as well as employ a bundling model in addition to a la carte purchasing. The bundling model allows the VV mobile markets to sell more items at a lower cost and expose participants to a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. Markets operate a minimum of 10 months out of the year and typically source produce locally or regionally.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

Intervention Type: PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

VV targets lower-income individuals and families receiving SNAP and other nutrition or social programs at community organizations, such as health clinics, lower-income housing communities, and recreation centers. The design of the VV intervention is such that the organization’s community ties are expanded, enhanced, and/or established through partner organizations already directly serving lower-income populations. This is essential because lower-income communities and communities of color often have less geographic access to stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables, which can influence perceptions of convenience of purchasing and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. Veggie Van is designed to address these perceptions of the food environment by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables both geographically and socially. The pilot evaluation of VV reached 72 participants at three sites: a lower-income housing community, a community college, and a health department. The cluster-randomized controlled trial reached 201 participants at 12 sites. 

Setting: Farmers markets, Child care (Learn), Community (Live), Faith-based community, Health care, Indian Tribal Organizations, School (Learn), USDA program sites (not National School Lunch Program)

Target Audience: Preschool (<5 years), Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women, Parents/Mothers/Fathers, Adults, Older Adults

Race/Ethnicity: No special focus.

Intervention Components

The VV toolkit includes resources to plan and implement a mobile market serving lower-income communities. These intervention components provide the plans and documents necessary to start a mobile market from the ground up.

Core components include:

  • Resources to assess community interest in a mobile market
  • Guidelines for identifying stakeholders and community partners
  • Resources to aid in developing a mobile market model
  • Strategies to identify and work with market host sites
  • Logistics for launching the program
  • Educational materials
    • Produce information in multiple formats to provide to participants
    • Ideas for cooking demonstrations
    • Ideas for taste tests

Components can be customized according to the specific needs of implementing organizations, as well as their financial and social resources for starting the program.

Intervention Materials

Intervention materials for running a mobile market include:

To request access to the above materials, visit the VV website’s sign up page.

Intervention Costs

Materials available at no cost.

Evidence Summary

A summary of the VV outcomes can be found on the Outcomes page of the VV website, and these outcomes include:

  • People using VV found it easier to make a veggie dish with what they had on hand
  • People in communities with VV were eating 3.6 cups per day of fruits and veggies while people in communities without VV were only eating 2.8 cups per day

The VV received feedback from study participants via the Mobile Market Survey, focus groups with participants, and the Green Chart Evaluation Follow-up Survey. Based on feedback, two additional dimensions were added to the VV program to help ensure that research participants would receive at least a minimal dose of the intervention: dissemination of a VV newsletter and a voucher for a free bundle of produce.

The following peer-reviewed journals provide full details of the impact of the VV and evaluation findings:

  • Leone, L. A., Haynes-Maslow, L., & Ammerman, A. S. (2017). Veggie van pilot study: impact of a mobile produce market for underserved communities on fruit and vegetable access and intake. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 12(1), 89–100. https://doi.org/10.1080/19320248.2016.1175399
  • Leone, L. A., Tripicchio, G. L., Haynes-Maslow, L., McGuirt, J., Grady Smith, J. S., Armstrong-Brown, J., … Ammerman, A. S. (2019). A Cluster-Randomized Trial of a Mobile Produce Market Program in 12 Communities in North Carolina: Program Development, Methods, and Baseline Characteristics. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 119(1), 57–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.04.010
  • Tripicchio, G. L., Grady Smith, J., Armstrong-Brown, J., McGuirt, J., Haynes-Maslow, L., Mardovich, S., … Leone, L. (2017). Recruiting Community Partners for Veggie Van: Strategies and Lessons Learned From a Mobile Market Intervention in North Carolina, 2012-2015. Preventing Chronic Disease, 14, E36. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd14.160475

Lessons learned from the pilot and subsequent four VV sites operated in North Carolina include:

  • Specific barriers to serving seniors
  • Mixed perceptions of the bundling model for selling produce
  • Participant perceptions of produce quality connected to their status as members of the target community

For more information on lessons learned visit the Lessons Learned page of the VV website. 

Evidence-based Approach: Research-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual ST1 MT1
Environmental Settings ST7
Sectors of Influence
  • ST1: Healthy Eating
    • The number of participants who set goals or intent to eat fruit
    • The number of participants who set goals or intent to eat vegetables
  • ST7: Organizational Partnerships
    • In 2012-2015, a total of 53 community organizations were approached for recruitment, and ultimately, 12 sites were enrolled (Tripicchio et al. 2017)
  • MT1: Healthy Eating
    • MT1l: Cups of fruit consumed per day
    • cups of vegetables consumed per day
      • In the pilot phase (2011-2013), individuals who reported shopping at Veggie Van frequently (n = 32) increased their F&V consumption by 0.41 servings/day compared with a decrease of −1.19 for those who rarely/never used Veggie Van (n = 27), a total difference of 1.6 servings/day (P = 0.01). RCT results from 2013-2016 (published 2019), indicate a mean reported F/V intake of 3.4 cups/day.

Evaluation Materials

Evaluation materials for the initial phases of the study include:

  • Mobile Market Survey
  • Follow-up survey and telephone script
  • Veggie Van Focus Group Moderator’s Guide

To request materials, visit the VV website’s sign up page.

Additional Information

Website: The VV website includes VV Toolkit news, an overview of the toolkit, as well as its model, history, and impact on the community.

Contact Person(s):
Anne Lally
Phone: 716-829-5436
Email: contactus@myveggievan.org