'Veggie Power Dollar' program gets Tulane PRC support

It was the smell of barbeque that drew her in. But the discount on fresh vegetables and fruit is what kept New Orleans resident Linda Hughes at the Sankofa Farmers Market one Saturday in February.

"I said, 'Hm. I wonder what's going on,'" said Hughes, who stopped at the market on her way home from her pharmacy. "I actually woke up this morning and said, 'I want some fruit. I'm going to eat healthy.'"

Thanks to a pilot program at Sankofa that matched her food-assistance benefits with tokens to buy fresh produce, Hughes left the farmers market with several bags of fresh greens and new recipes she learned from the market's vendors.

Tulane public health graduate student Bonnie Ruyle also received valuable lessons from the pilot program with Sankofa Community Development Corporation. As an intern with Sankofa, she helped develop the "Veggie Power Dollars" match program that reached dozens of residents, like Hughes. Ruyle was selected for the job through the Tulane Prevention Research Center's (PRC) practicum program, which connects graduate students to community organizations, government agencies and public-health groups for a 300-hour internship. Ruyle said her skills were expanded by helping develop the pilot program, performing data analysis, and working for a nonprofit.

"It opened my eyes even more so to diabetes, heart disease, and nutrition's role in all disease," said Ruyle, whose graduate studies have focused on tropical medicine. "I saw what fruits and vegetables are really available and their value."

Sankofa launched its pilot program this year to match every $10 in government food-assistance benefits spent at the market with $10 in "Veggie Power Dollars" to be spent on fresh fruit and vegetables. The goal was to reach families, particularly families, children and senior citizens, in the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward neighborhoods, Ruyle said. But, unexpectedly, the program drew mostly young adult individuals with food-assistance benefits.

"They were very savvy to it," Ruyle said. "They caught on right away, and they were back every week. And that's great, but that wasn't really the target."

Of the roughly 100 participants in the match program, about 20 percent were either senior citizens or families with children, Ruyle said. The market not only provides foods but also educational elements, by introducing people to different varieties of foods and showing that the costs can be less than in grocery stores.

The pilot program was a good starting point for encouraging people to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, said Rashida Ferdinand, founder and executive director of Sankofa, a community-empowerment organization based in New Orleans' Upper and Lower Ninth Ward.

"It was a success in that we actually created the program, informed the community and served the community, and we realized some things we needed to do," Ferdinand said.

In the future, Sankofa plans to continue the program but tweak it to focus more on outreach to the target populations. That includes increasing connections with senior centers, schools, and offices for social safety net programs like Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Receiving assistance and resources from Tulane for the pilot "Veggie Dollars" program was helpful, Ferdinand said.

"It's great having that kind of support as a smaller grassroots organization," Ferdinand said. "We can work with a graduate student who has a career-specific interest in working in this area. So there's a level of understanding the mission, the purpose of the work."

By Naomi King, Tulane Prevention Research Center
March 2012

(Photo by Naomi King: New Orleans resident Linda Hughes buys greens from Sankofa Farmers Market vendor Jamal Elhayek in February.)

Other Related Posts


NOLA LEADs finds positive results from citizen-training program

Education & Engagement Special Interest Projects (SIPs)

Published: April 10, 2018

Anyone can be a health leader and improve their community, if given the right tools and skills. That’s what the Tulane Prevention Research Center's two-year NOLA LEADs (Leadership Education & Action on health Disparities) citizen-training project has found since completing its work. Keeping with the project's goal of helping all who are concerned about improving the lives of their neighbors and the conditions of their communities, the team has put together a one-page summary to…

Read More


Closing the policymaking gap: Tackling barriers to improving public health in Louisiana

Education & Engagement

Published: April 08, 2018

When attempting to address Louisiana's consistently low rankings in national health reports, public health professionals can have a positive influence on the policy-making process through research and education, according to recently published work from the Tulane public health researchers. From 2013 to 2014, a team of faculty and staff at the Tulane Nutrition Program and Tulane Prevention Research Center explored strategies for improving public health in Louisiana by conducting policy research and educating lawmakers. The…

Read More


Tulane graduate hikes the Underground Railroad

Education & Engagement

Published: April 05, 2018

Recent Tulane University graduate Chyna Johnson spent five days in March in the footsteps of abolitionist Harriet Tubman this week as part of a 100-mile trek along the route of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by African-American slaves to escape to free states, ran north to the free states and Canada. (Click on the image above to see a slideshow from the trek.) Johnson is…

Read More


Message from the Director

Education & Engagement Food Environment Research

Published: April 01, 2018

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. We always think of spring as a time of new beginnings and renewal. Certainly, it can be that way with us as well. The weather is mild (not too hot yet) so it's a good time to think about being outdoors more. Spring is conducive to growth, so it's a good time to plant a garden, especially vegetables. What could be fresher than that? There…

Read More


Tulane PRC to present core research and other work at Society of Behavioral Medicine

Core Research

Published: April 01, 2018

The Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) faculty, staff and students are scheduled to give 11 presentations at the Society of Behavioral Medicine's 39th Annual Meeting, held in New Orleans this week. The meeting draws thousands of researchers, public health professionals, community members, and advocates from across the country and the world. Among the topics that will be presented by the Tulane PRC are community-based cooking classes, social marketing for health promotion, community engagement, photovoice, and…

Read More


Tulane partnership with FitLot provides students with assessment experience in aging populations

Education & Engagement Physical Activity Research

Published: April 01, 2018

Transforming the built environment of a community can make a difference in how citizens feel about accessibility of physical fitness. Since the start of March, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine faculty and students have been engaging with local participants of The FitLot Method Program, an outdoor, group fitness program designed to meet the needs of adults 55 years and older. FitLot, a longtime community partner of the Tulane Prevention Research Center…

Read More


Community Partner Updates

Education & Engagement

Published: April 01, 2018

See what our Community Advisory Board (CAB) members and partners have been up to recently! Click on the photo for a gallery of pictures, and read below for related updates. To find out more about our partners, click here to visit our Community Partners page. Photos 1-5: Women With A Vision Inc. Women with a Vision Inc. has been busy developing a garden with a spirit that transcends the physical space. As a part of…

Read More


Team Spotlight

Education & Engagement

Published: April 01, 2018

This newsletter's team spotlight features four graduating student research assistants who supported numerous Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) projects and programs over the past year. Through one-on-one training and mentorship, these master's students have worked diligently to apply the skills, knowledge, frameworks and strategies learned in classes to the community-based work of the PRC. "These students have worked diligently on community projects, and we are very proud of them," said Tulane PRC Director Carolyn Johnson.…

Read More


Upcoming seminar shares innovative, peer-led diabetes prevention

Education & Engagement

Published: April 01, 2018

Please join the Tulane Prevention Research Center on Wednesday, April 11, for the Spring 2018 Innovations in Public Health Research and Practice Seminar: "Prevention of Diabetes in India: What evidence is there for scale-up?" Light refreshments will be provided. This seminar is free and open to the public. Wednesday, April 11, 2018, from 12-1:30 p.m. in the Diboll Auditorium, 1st Floor, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, New Orleans Featuring…

Read More


Legislative Updates

Education & Engagement

Published: April 01, 2018

Louisiana Obesity Commission publishes annual report Since 2014, the Louisiana Obesity Prevention and Management Commission has been tasked by state lawmakers to address obesity statewide and its associated diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The commission recently presented its annual report to the state Legislature. The report, published in February 2018, includes recommendations for future Commission activities and highlights the Commission’s activities during the timeframe of April 2017-November 2017. Click here to…

Read More