Student Fellowship

Let’s All Eat: Improving Access to Healthy Foods and Reducing Health Disparities

Project Area:

Healthy Food Access


Rochester, New York

Reporting to:

Coordinator of Youth2Work, Internships and Fellowships

The Challenge

The city of Rochester has one of the highest obesity rates in its region: nearly 40% of children and adults are overweight. Rochester also has three of the ten zip codes with the highest rates of food insecurity in the state of New York, with more than half of the census tract meeting the USDA definition of a “food desert.” Further compounding the challenge are the high rates of poverty (33%), racial segregation (90% of city school students are BIPOC), unemployment (12.8%), school failure (lowest graduation rate of “big 5” districts in New York State), gun violence (5th highest homicide rate in US in 2021), and significant health disparities, many of which are related to social and environmental determinants of health, particularly stress and diet-related chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, hypertension). 

The mayor and city staff are committed to working across sectors and the region to improve healthy food access. In 2019, the city adopted a new Comprehensive Plan, Rochester 2034, which includes 24 strategies related to food access, and 20 to gardens and urban agriculture. The city has also developed several programs to raise awareness of and promote healthy eating while improving access to food. Launched in summer 2022, the “Cultivating Community” program is an 8-week paid internship that employed, in its last iteration, fifteen youth ages 14 and 15 who work in the agricultural sector while at the same time learning about healthy eating habits within their communities; it is now being re-offered during the school year. Another program that was also recently started is the city’s Healthy Food Loan and Grant program, which offers local businesses loans and grants to incentivize the supply of healthy foods, attracts new health food retail businesses to target areas, and supports implementation of innovative alternative food retail models like mobile markets. 

Together with the Nourish Roc and the Healthy Food Accessibility teams, the fellow will analyze the effectiveness of both the Cultivating Community and the Healthy Food Loan and Grant programs and help develop strategies to scale these programs across the city. Key questions include: 

  • How effective are the two programs in impacting healthy food access and consumption?
  • How equitable is distribution among quadrants of the city?
  • Based on the experience of the current school year, what is the feasibility, potential funding, and interest in expanding the Cultivating Community program beyond 8-weeks, into the school year?
  • How effective is the city’s Healthy Food Loan and Grant program? What steps can be taken to expand the program to businesses and non-profits in the city?
  • How can these programs be sustained and scaled up, while complementing each other?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will assist in data analysis and impact evaluation, while actively engaging with the program coordinators, the community, local businesses, and other relevant stakeholders to conduct qualitative and quantitative assessments of the two programs. Informed by the evaluations, the fellow will make recommendations for sustaining and scaling both programs. Key deliverables will include:

  • Evaluation findings and recommendations for improvement, scaling, and long-term viability.
  • Mapping of increased access to demonstrate distribution in each quadrant.
  • Presentation of the findings and recommendations to key stakeholders including mayor and council.
  • Peer cities review to inform methods for attracting new healthy food retail businesses.
  • If relevant, help produce videos that demonstrate the value of the Cultivating Community program to participating youth that could be used to promote and encourage participation for new cohorts.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills and interests: 

  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Mapping (GIS)
  • Policy analysis
  • Human centered design
  • Writing and editing
  • Stakeholder engagement and management
  • Basic filming and editing
  • Interest in health

Apply now
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