Good food leads to good health

June 01, 2019

“Eat your fruits and vegetables” became an age old adage for a reason. It’s a fact that nutrition is a major component of good health. Unfortunately, for many low-income families, it can be quite a struggle to purchase wholesome foods needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In turn, this often leads to poor nutrition and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Based on data from Providence St. Joseph Health, Los Angeles County’s most recent regional Community Health Needs Assessment, high levels of poverty in the county make access to healthy food a serious problem. To address this need of food insecurity, Providence established various community benefit programs, including a community garden, a certified Farmer’s Market and CalFresh enrollment assistance in low-income neighborhoods in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley regions of Los Angeles County.


CalFresh is the largest food program in California and provides monthly food benefits to assist low-income households in purchasing nutritious foods needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Through this program, those eligible receive extra money to buy groceries, including more access to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, at grocery stores and local farmer’s markets.

Since 2009, Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers CalFresh and Health Insurance Program (CHIP) specialists have helped those in the community determine eligibility and navigate the application process for publicly subsidized health insurance programs. In 2017, Providence began offering outreach and free enrollment assistance for CalFresh using a mobile Community Health Worker model at more than 20 community sites in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley.

Today, Providence is the top enrollee for electronic CalFresh applications in the county. With a $163,926 Community Benefit investment, which also includes grants from LA CARE, California Association of Food Banks, California Community Foundation, and the California Department of Social Services, Providence’s Community Health Workers assisted 2,049 individuals with their applications in 2018; 65 percent of those applicants, or 1,339 individuals, were successfully enrolled in the program.

“The success of our Community Health Insurance Program is due to the use of Community Health Workers (CHWs), a best practice recognized in the field of public health for engaging hard-to-reach populations like those served by our program,” says Justin Joe, South Bay director of community partnerships. “As enrollment counselors, CHWs eliminate barriers to CalFresh enrollment, like language, transportation, and stigma associated with enrolling in public benefits, because they come from within the local community, have similar life experiences which enable them to provide compassionate care for the clients they serve, and they return to those communities to offer enrollment assistance in the places where people naturally gather to study, work, and pray.”

Did you know? Wilmington Certified Farmer’s Market is open every Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Sponsored by a partnership between Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers, and Hunger Action Los Angeles, this market features vendors selling fresh and hot food, farm-fresh local produce and locally made goods, as well as informational booths and social services.