Experience of Food FARMacia and COVID-19-Related Food Access in Washington Heights

Catherine Lowenthal

Name: Catherine Lowenthal
School: Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Class of 2023. Varmus Global Scholar 2020
Mentor: Jennifer Woo Baidal, MPH




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Food insecurity – the lack of consistent access to healthy food – has many negative health consequences, such as a possible increased risk of childhood obesity. Food FARMacia is an innovative clinic-based intervention that aims to reduce food insecurity in New York City by providing free, fresh food to families who face this social determinant of health. The need for such programs is tremendous, particularly as the number of New Yorkers with food insecurity has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this cross-sectional qualitative research, a semi-structured interview guide was created to guide interviews with participants of Food FARMacia in order to understand their experience with the program both before and after the start of the pandemic, and their current food access needs in the context of COVID-19. Nine interviews have been conducted thus far. A codebook was created for data analysis and the nine interviews were coded. Results are forthcoming; initial impressions include the importance of Food FARMacia’s role in increasing participants’ exposure to fruits and vegetables. Ultimately, we hope that results inform programmatic changes in Food FARMacia to help serve its current and future participants. We hope that results create a rich understanding of possible solutions for food access needs in Washington Heights and the South Bronx during COVID-19 and beyond.