Category Archives: Rural Health

Jul 26 2011
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Voices of Public Health: Round-up of Comments on NewPublicHealth

From unexpected partnerships to new uses of technology, local health departments and community-based organizations are finding new ways to make a difference in the health of their communities every day. Everyone in public health has a story to tell and a different take on the news of the day, and the best way to learn from each other is by sharing these stories and swapping opinions. We’ve rounded up some great comments from our readers below. Keep the comments coming!

Stories from NACCHO 2011

At NACCHO Annual 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NACCHO teamed up to collect anecdotes from the front lines about health departments’ successes. Here are some of the stories we heard. To see the full comments, take a look here.

  • The Spokane Regional Health District is now using decision support software to help make sure their funding decisions are grounded in a consistent, value-ranked set of criteria across the agency. The department found that in a time of limited resources, a system for making funding decisions was needed more than ever.
  • Directors of the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Agency spearheaded the formation of HealthWorks! TV, health-focused programming for public access television. The programming reached a regular viewing audience of more than 10,000 households across California’s central coast. An advisory board developed priorities for programming topics based on a community needs assessment. Founders said HealthWorks! could serve as a replicable model for other communities trying to expand educational outreach around community-driven health issues.
  • Dave Berry, Editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph, wrote of the unique partnership between public health, community leaders and the news media that went into creating the Fit City Challenge in Tyler Texas. Read more about this initiative, and what can be learned from partnering with the media, in the full follow-up post here.
  • The County Health Officer of Henry County Indiana told a common story of shrinking budgets and staff, but offered a creative way to make the most of limited resources by tapping into existing community resources, from local businesses to volunteers for a diverse, wide-reaching Wellness Council.

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Jul 8 2011
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Faces of Public Health: Richard Schneiders, Founder of "MoGro"

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Faces of Public Health is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth featuring individuals working on the front lines of public health and helping keep people healthy and safe. Today’s profile is Richard Schneiders, Founder of MoGro, a mobile grocery truck.

Just a few weeks ago, the “Mobile Grocery,” or MoGro, started up its operations in New Mexico. MoGro is a project aimed at delivering healthy groceries to the Native American communities of New Mexico. The project’s centerpiece is a large, refrigerated truck that brings fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods directly to native communities in the state. The idea for MoGro came from Richard Schneiders, the former C.E.O. of food distributor, Sysco Corp., and his wife, Beth. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Richard Schneiders about the project.

NewPublicHealth: When did the planning start for MoGro?

Richard Schneiders: The planning actually started about three years ago. My wife, Beth and I have had a long relationship with Johns Hopkins University, which is one of our partners for MoGro. We were helping financially on a project that helped young Navajo mothers with prenatal care and with care of their children through age 5. And when that project got permanent funding us all agreed that was the time to really focus on nutrition because it was certainly a huge issue in the Native American community. As you probably know the incidence of diabetes and obesity is three times the U.S. population.

NPH: Did you try any other types of healthy groceries delivery before coming up with the idea for MoGro?

Rick Schneiders: We really didn’t other than going to visit other operations. We looked at other programs throughout the country. But what occurred to us was that most of those programs were limited in terms of the variety of produce they were offering. Another big difference in our program is that MoGro itself is for-profit.

NPH: And for whom is it ‘for-profit?’

Rick Schneiders: Well, first of all, it’s important to know the profit is a very theoretical idea. If everything goes according to plan, within three years we’ll break even. But one of the reasons we went the ‘for-profit‘ route was because we would like to have the communities themselves--in one way or another--invest in the business and we want the communities and the MoGro members to share in whatever profits there might be down the road.

NPH: And the funding now is coming from you and your wife? Or is it coming from other resources as well?

Rick Schneiders: Well, all of the funding for MoGro is coming from my wife and me right now. There are no other investors. However, you may know this but Johns Hopkins is one partner and our operational partner is a New Mexico Co-op chain. They help us with the management of the truck. And Johns Hopkins is responsible for community relations, education programs, promotions and those sorts of things. And obviously, Johns Hopkins is a 501(c)(3) so we have received pretty good funding from a number of foundations now to help on the nonprofit side and the things that Johns Hopkins is doing specifically--the education, promotion, and community outreach.

NPH: How were the choices made for the foods that would be on the trucks?

Rick Schneiders: Johns Hopkins put together the surveys for the communities. And through that survey we identified at least a baseline of products that we wanted to have on the trailer. And then we actually had a contest where we had a drawing every week for four weeks and we collected grocery receipts from families in the communities so we could actually see what they were buying and how much they were spending. And frankly, we knew that we weren’t going to get this right from the beginning--over time, we were going to have to continue to refine the product selection. My wife and I will be up tonight looking through a catalog trying to add new products to our mix. We’re pretty hopeful that over time we’re going to make it a much better selection for the community members. We’re really trying to have healthy products so there are no chips, no candy, and no soft drinks on this trailer. Forty to fifty percent of our sales right now are fresh produce. We also have canned goods and meat products. Right now, we have a little over two hundred different items and I now think that we can get somewhere close to four hundred different products for sale on the trailer.

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May 27 2011
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Healthy Food by the Truckload

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If they bring it, will they buy?

That’s the hope behind, “MoGro,” short for Mobile Grocery, which launched mobile truck delivery of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods by truck this week in Santo Domingo Pueblo, a Native American community in New Mexico. MoGro is the brain child of Richard Schneiders, now retired as CEO of Sysco, Inc., the giant food distribution firm.

The truck uses temperature-controlled trucks to provide access to healthy, affordable food to communities that currently lack access due to physical location and cost. The company cites "elimination of food deserts" as their primary vision.

MoGro is a partnership between the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, food distributor La Montanita, and MoGro LLC. Johns Hopkins will also provide nutrition education and monthly fitness events. For now, deliveries will be twice-weekly to a community center and there are plans to expand the service to other Native American communities in the state.

The truck will have about 200 items to choose from, including fruits, vegetables, beans, baking supplies, meat and dairy products. Free membership entitles MoGro shoppers to food discounts.

Benefits go beyond access to healthier foods. The organizers estimate that shoppers will save over $100 each week, and bringing to the food to the people will save 9,000 car miles driven per community.

Weigh In: Does your community have a novel program for improving access to healthy food?