Many of the neighborhoods in Los Angeles that are being hardest hit by COVID-19 because of overall disparities in health are also food deserts, places where it’s impossible to buy fresh food. A lack of good nutrition during these times can put people with already poor health to considerably high risk of hospitalization or even death in case they are to contract the virus.
To help the people living in these vulnerable areas get access to proper food during the crisis, an app called Tangelo now makes it possible to place free orders of fruits and vegetables for home delivery.
“When healthy food gets delivered to your door, the word ‘food desert’ becomes meaningless,” says Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit that collaborated on the development of the app and launched the program in L.A.
To ensure that the food reaches those who need it, the app works together with local organizations, such as Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, that identify the most vulnerable, low-income community members and then invite them to download the app. Once the app is on their phone, they receive $40 a month to spend on produce deliveries, for a total of six months.
While the app launched in LA in January, it has become even more relevant now. “This gives people who are nutrition-insecure the financial resources to buy the food they need to avoid the diet-related diseases that are killing and hospitalizing people at the highest rates with COVID,” Nischan says.
The app gives users a choice of fresh local produce and also asks for information that can help better inform nutrition programs. If users choose to take a food quiz, for example, they get incentives for more fruits and vegetables and the nonprofits can gather more anonymous data.