This blog post is authored by Peter Raman and Alma Rose Rivera, second-year medical students and members of the Latino Medical Student Association at Dell Medical School.
The Latino Medical Student Association is a student-run organization at Dell Medical School that aims to empower and maximize the potential of Latino communities and other marginalized groups. Part of our mission is recognizing and striving to address the disparities in health care access, representation and education.
At Dell Med, there is a strong emphasis on a holistic approach to health care, meaning we aim to take into consideration external barriers to a patient’s well-being beyond the four walls of a clinic. We know that barriers such as language access, cultural associations, income, insurance status and mental health barriers are all things that lead to very different health outcomes in certain populations.
Food insecurity is one such barrier that is not traditionally weighed with sufficient importance. Having learned about the food insecurities enrooted in our local Austin community and the subsequent dire health outcomes, we set out to use our resources and education to make an impact.
According to a report from the Department of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, “Non-white populations concentrated in the Eastern Crescent region tend to have lower incomes and higher barriers to accessing healthy, affordable foods.” By using the food stress index from their research, which highlights the existing inequities in Austin’s food system by using dimensions of poverty and food insecurity on a neighborhood level, we chose to work with Austin Council District 2. The district is predominantly Hispanic (69%) and has one of the lowest average median household incomes in Austin ($42,650). There are only two grocery stores in the entire district, which is important when it comes to availability and variety of fresh produce and transportation accessibility.
By partnering with Good Apple and Bridged Health, two local nonprofits aimed toward driving better health outcomes, we set out to provide a consistent and sustainable avenue for these families to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Families are able to sign up to receive free boxes of fresh produce from Good Apple and get them delivered to their doorstep on a monthly basis. Alongside these boxes, we include educational health pamphlets that were provided by Bridged Health on a variety of relevant topics such as nutrition, diabetes, COVID-19 and mental wellness. By leveraging Good Apple’s food infrastructure and Bridged Health’s educational pamphlets, the community is able to increase their health literacy and implement sustainable changes to their diet.
We hope that initiatives like this will inspire others in our field to actively take a role in the health of our local communities and be aware of the root factors that impact health. Moreover, we hope to establish greater trust and rapport with long-underserved communities that will ultimately lead to better health outcomes.