Fresh “farmacy” prescribes local food

local farmerLocal Food Hub partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food (Local Food Hub).

Ninety participants received shares of locally-sourced fruit and vegetables from family farms in Central Virginia, beginning in May and ending in November 2017. Participants also received a starter pantry kit, a collection of produce-centric recipes and guidance for keeping food fresh and safe at home. In order to integrate traditional medical care (such as physicals, primary care visits, and filling prescriptions) and this innovative food access program, the University of Virginia Health System clinical employee wellness program, BeWell, assigned a wellness coach to each participant. To utilize this top notch assortment of seasonal produce, BeWell and Morrison Healthcare collaborated on a series of cooking classes based on the Fresh Farmacy share contents and program materials.

In 2017, BeWell administered a survey to determine the physical and mental health of the health system employees and to assess stressors associated with the social determinants of health. Based on survey results and an identified need for access to fresh, local food, BeWell connected with Local Food Hub to become a pilot site for the Fresh Farmacy: Local Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program. Local Food Hub, a nonprofit organization, partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food.

Local Food Hub was founded in 2009 in Charlottesville, Va. based on a series of roundtable discussions with institutional purchasers. Among the most supportive were the representatives from the UVA Health System and its food service contract partner Morrison Healthcare, which immediately shifted significant purchasing to Local Food Hub’s tomatoes, apples, peaches, and salad greens. Since then, collaboration has extended into a local protein program, and various meet and greet opportunities with partner farmers who receive $.70 of each dollar spent, totaling over $315,000 since 2009.

Learn more about produce prescription programs