Partners In Community Health (PICH) Exclusive

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Check out United Way of Merced County staff member and Hmong community advocate Paula Yang, as well as detailed information on the successes and future endeavors United Way of Merced County and The Merced County of Public Health have achieved during the early phases of the Farm to Store Healthy Retail Initiative. The program is achieving great success, connecting Hmong farmers to businesses, and importantly, providing residents with healthy eating options in food deserts throughout South Merced & Winton areas. #LIVEUNITED.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/living/health-fitness/article158947899.html

Recent Highlight: Farm to Store Pilot

Mr. Her at his farm in Atwater picking fresh cilantro (left). Farm to Store pilot’s local vegetables for sale at Amigos Mini Mart in South Merced (right).
In June 2017, Merced County Public Health Department’s PICH staff, in collaboration with United Way of Merced County, launched a Farm to Store pilot linking local farmers to corner or convenience stores in Merced County locations considered to be food deserts. The pilot creates a system connecting stores and local farmers with the goal to improve the health of the community by increasing access to healthy food options. PICH staff Marie Pickney, Supervising Health Educator, explains that this pilot is beneficial for several reasons including helping residents who may not have access to transportation. “Transportation is often a big issue in the county and, without a vehicle, residents find it challenging to go to the grocery store,…by having produce available this eases resident’s need for a vehicle to go across town.” Pickney also adds, “Stores now have a potential new source of revenue by adding fresher and healthier options which increases foot traffic to their stores. The farmer also benefits by conducting business closer to their farm thus eliminating the need to travel far distances to sell their locally grown fresh produce.”

The pilot is using a modified Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model where farmers drop off a variety of seasonal, locally grown produce weekly or bi-weekly and the store pays a flat rate for the delivery. For example, eggplant may be delivered to the convenience store in the summer and fall while carrots may be delivered in the winter and spring. While stores are free to supplement what is being provided with popular non-local produce such as bananas, these items are not provided through the pilot since they are not locally sourced. In the upcoming months, data collection will be done to outline a system that can be replicated in other locations and measure the Farm to Store pilot’s sustainability. Data collections efforts will include interviews with patrons, farmers, and store owners as well as intercept surveys that will be conducted outside of the stores.

Current stores with the PICH Farm to Store Pilot:

  • El Porvenir on 864 W. 13th St., Merced
  • Amigos Mini Mart on 645 11th St., Merced
  • Adel’s Mini Mart on 331 CA-59, Merced
  • Winton Way Market on 7190 Winton Way, Winton
Mr. Her, Marie Pickney, and Paula Yang outside El Porvenir giving a food demonstration on vegetables to a pair of shoppers.
On June 29, 2017 an event was held to promote the PICH pilot at El Porvenir in South MercedA food demonstration utilizing the local produce was provided by the California Health Collaborative and information and resources, such as recipes, were available outside the store.

Read more about the event and the Farm to Store Pilot in the Merced Sun-Star article.

Partner Profile: Paula Yang

Paula Yang is a prolific speaker who has decades of experience speaking about difficult topics to varied audiences. Her expertise in the fields of domestic violence, human trafficking, political rallies, and lobbying for legislative change has afforded her multiple opportunities to interview individuals and groups, observe first-hand situations, and research topics outside her comfort zone to enable her to educate individuals and professionals on challenging social issues. She has a strong background in advocacy work against domestic violence for Hmong women, teens, and children, as well as, advocacy work for local Hmong Farmers and Hmong Veterans lobbing for change, politically and socially.

Yang’s education includes, a pending M. A. in History and Gender Studies from Fresno Pacific University, a B. A. in Business Administration/Marketing from Phoenix University, Fresno, and an A. A. in Legal Studies from Central California College of Law.

She is currently the news anchor of the talk show “Your Voice with Paula Yang” on Fresno’s 31.9 HmongUSATV and holds the current position of CEO for the Hmong Sisterhood of Fresno, Inc. that enables her to work within the Hmong community as an advocate for battered women and children, including, advocacy for domestic violence victims/families of murder homicide suicide cases nationwide. She has also traveled with the former General Vang Pao, a legendary leader of the Hmong people across the world, speaking out on ending domestic violence and prevention of domestic violence and murder suicide homicide in the Hmong Community. Yang is bilingual in Hmong and English and is learning Spanish.

Yang is collaborating on the Farm to Store pilot connecting Hmong farmers to retailers in the Merced community to promote healthier nutrition options. She is also working with the SNAP-ED (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) program connecting farmers to schools and increasing the acceptance and use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) at farm stands. Using the varied skills she has learned from her experiences, Yang has facilitated the conversations between Hmong farmers, schools, and retailers so everyone in the community takes a hands-on approach to increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Yang is excited that the program promotes good nutrition and local farmers, but also works to bring the community together. She hopes that the Farm to Store pilot will continue to help with providing the community with fresh nutrition options and that the partnership between farmers and retailers will continue to grow.

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