Wello, a nonprofit organization serving Greater Green Bay, is using a COVID-19 Response grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to support an innovative partnership to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 in the region.

Wello and its partners, Casa ALBA Melanie - Hispanic Resource Center and four local farmers markets, have created a multi-faceted approach to protect access to fresh foods and support the area’s farming community.

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, more of our neighbors have found themselves unemployed and experiencing food insecurity,” said Natalie Bomstad, MPH, Executive Director of Wello. “Farmers markets are an important part of the food insecurity equation. This project aims to safeguard fresh food access by working collaboratively with our local farmers markets to ensure people can continue to use their FoodShare (EBT) dollars to purchase fresh, nutritious food. This supports families in accessing healthy food in a time of increased need and provides some financial sustainability to our local farmers.”

Green Bay Farmer's Market
Local farmers markets including the Downtown Green Bay Inc. Market, above, have implemented safety measures to help protect vendors and shoppers from COVID-19. Wello

The partnership with Casa ALBA helps address food insecurity in the region’s Hispanic community, whose members have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to job loss, high-risk employment as essential workers, as well as other health and economic disparities. Casa ALBA has also arranged to distribute produce boxes to local families to help overcome the language and transportation barriers experienced by some community members.

By ensuring access to fresh produce, this grant also provides significant support for the local agricultural community and economy. “Farming and agriculture are a big part of life in Northwestern Wisconsin, and our farmers markets are important cultural centers as well as community spaces for gathering and social connectivity,” said Bomstad. The project helps ensure the markets remains safe and accessible by providing personal protective equipment for vendors, handwashing stations and signage to promote physical distancing. The region’s four farmer’s markets – Downtown Green Bay, Inc., OnBroadway, Inc., Market on Military and Oneida Market – serve a combined total of more than 21,000 people each week. The farmers are grateful for the opportunity to continue the FoodShare program at the market, and most importantly, to be able to help address the health gaps by providing access to fresh, nutritious produce in a way that is safe and healthy as well.

Bomstad is grateful for the community’s willingness to come together to think differently and innovatively. “The success of this project is built upon the strong partnerships that exist within our community. By working together, we’ve been able to provide a responsive and flexible approach to COVID-19 that is addressing the nutritional health and well-being of our community’s more vulnerable neighbors and contributing to our region’s agricultural and economic well-being as well.”

The grant to Wello is one of 22 COVID-19 Response Grants awarded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The grants were awarded to researchers and community organizations across Wisconsin to support efforts to lessen the impact of COVID-19.