Addressing food insecurity for Verde Valley seniors

Nearly one in seven seniors in Arizona faced food insecurity in the past year.1 Access to fresh, healthy foods can have a tremendous impact on health outcomes; seniors experiencing food insecurity are twice as likely to report poor health compared to those who are not experiencing food insecurity.2 Food-insecure seniors are more likely to develop health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure , asthma and depression, and are 22% more likely to experience limitations in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).3

Verde Valley, a community in Yavapai County, Arizona, has one of the highest concentrations of seniors in the state, with a median age of 55.4 With a geographic area larger than the size of New Jersey, residents face barriers related to transportation and mobility in accessing groceries. A community survey in the county cited a lack of transportation options and high food prices as the two challenges that most impact the community.5

To support seniors in Verde Valley in accessing healthy food, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona teamed up with Manzanita Outreach to fund 12,000 home deliveries of fresh, nutritious food boxes. Manzanita Outreach operates a hub-and-spoke distribution system, where staff members bring fresh foods to pick-up locations and delivery drivers transport the food boxes directly to seniors’ homes.

The program also aims to advance health equity in the community by improving access to culturally-relevant foods. Manzanita Outreach has surveyed Hispanic residents and members of the Yavapai Apache nation to identify highly-requested foods that are cultural staples. Manzanita Outreach is collaborating with local farmers to source produce like heritage chiles, tomatillos and corn to meet these needs. The organization also aims to expand the availability of recipe cards, in both English and Spanish, with ideas and directions for preparing meals.

The food delivery program will reach 500 households per month, completing an estimated 12,000 deliveries over the next two years. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona and Manzanita Outreach are committed to providing seniors with access to fresh, healthy foods, supporting their whole-person needs, and advancing health equity in the Verde Valley community.

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