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Philanthropy Thought Leadership

Heart-healthy Porch Chats: How Wholesome Wave Georgia evolved from behind-the-scenes to on-the-ground

By Mike Rouse, community outreach ambassador and Will Sellers, executive director, Wholesome Wave Georgia

Wholesome Wave Georgia increases access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for food and nutrition insecure families – who we refer to as our neighbors – across metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia through our community partnerships with 78 participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and brick-and-mortar stores. 

Wholesome Wave Georgia works behind the scenes to help our neighbors purchase more fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), formerly known as food stamps, by matching SNAP spending on local produce. That means $5 worth of SNAP benefits turns into $10 worth of fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

With the help of the American Heart Association, we moved from a behind-the-scenes nonprofit to an on-the-ground nonprofit because more than one in four City of Atlanta residents rely on the SNAP program to purchase food.  

To ensure that our nonprofit met the needs of our Neighbors, Wholesome Wave Georgia had to engage differently.   

Local people doing local work 

In partnership with the American Heart Association, we developed the Community Food Ambassador role to engage neighbors using the SNAP program. We learned that flyers and yard signs were not enough to bring neighbors into our network. 

We recognized that we needed a leader who lives in and understands the community we seek to serve. By working with talented local community leaders, like Mike Rouse, we increased our impact by learning from the community’s lived experience to increase farmers market engagement and expand civic involvement. 

Since we launched the Community Food Ambassador role in 2021, Wholesome Wave Georgia witnessed a 24% increase in SNAP shoppers at farmers markets, farm stands, MARTA markets and at our brick-and-mortar partner within the City of Atlanta. 

Bread crumbs of engagement  

A key innovation resulting from our transformation was the Heart Healthy Porch Chat: a one-on-one conversation, in-person or virtual, designed to build relationships with community members for authentic conversations on SNAP access, utilization and enrollment to move families from food insecurity to food and nutrition security.  

The Heart Healthy Porch Chat builds a relationship with neighbors to allow for deep, rich storytelling on the resilience of our neighbors using the SNAP program. 

To combat the stigma associated with SNAP use, we worked with an artist to create editorial illustrations based on a neighbor’s story. The neighbor’s name is not used to protect their privacy and to treat them with dignity and respect.  The example below illustrates how we share our neighbor’s stories to inspire.   

Wholesome Wave Georgia remains rooted in increasing access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables in concert with our community partners. We know that as Georgians experience inflation at a four-decade high, the need for food is great and growing.  Wholesome Wave Georgia is evolving into a nonprofit that works with community leaders to engage our neighbors to expand SNAP access, utilization and enrollment by using a patient, engaged approach to advance food and nutrition security.    

About Wholesome Wave Georgia 

Wholesome Wave Georgia believes that all Georgians should have access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food choices. Founded in 2009, Wholesome Wave Georgia strives to strengthen local food communities by empowering networks of farmers to facilitate access to and awareness of healthy food choices. By increasing the affordability of healthy, locally grown foods, Wholesome Wave Georgia makes healthy, nourishing choices accessible for Georgia’s food-insecure population. Learn more about our work at wholesomewavegeorgia.org, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


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