Hello from Valerie at Cowan Creek’s Grow Appalachia site. It has been a busy month and things are growing here. The rain is very hard to deal with for those who have worked so hard this spring and now are losing control over their gardens. It’s a wait and see situation, but we continue to have hope nature takes a turn for the better. The June harvest for most was low, but we expect much bigger numbers in the next two months.
Now…for better news. The Letcher County Farmers Market is growing and several growers were ahead of the curve and we’ve had a good start to the season. Our market serves as the stage for local foods in Letcher County and we are trying to address several issues that matter in EKY. Last year we added the Summer Feeding Program with a partnership with Letcher County Public Schools and later Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation to provide fresh local meals. We are continuing with that this year and numbers are growing. This past Saturday we served 50 free healthy summer meals to youth under 18.
What’s New? We’ve partnered with Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation and introduced the FARMACY program. MCHC is setting an example for Rural Health Care. Patients who see their physician and have illness which could benefit from a better diet are now being given prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at the Farmers Market at no cost to the patient. In addition to support from MCHC we also have support from Passports Health and WellCare with interest from others as well. These added sales are a big boost to the growers and market and provide a better diet to many families. Patients with health needs are prescribed $1 per day per family member w/a minimum of $14 for an individual. Patients may renew their prescription and may visit the market each week the market is open. We are hearing many positive reviews from customers at the market and MCHC will be tracking health benefits to patients.
Thanks again to MCHC for recognizing the value of this program and our other partners including Community Farm Alliance. Thanks to Passports Health Plan and WellCare for recognizing community driven solutions for health and supporting. In EKY we would like to see more support come this way, the problems are here, but it’s most likely so are the solutions. It is very satisfying to be given support to carry out ideas we believe will work and have an active role in creating and implementing solutions.
If you would like to read more, I’ve added the article that was in this week’s Mountain Eagle.
Program offers free fruits, vegetables
“We’re excited to partner with Community Farm Alliance and the farmers market in this endeavor to bring better nutrition to those people in Letcher County who have medical conditions where we can have a positive impact,” said L.M. “Mike” Caudill, MCHC’s chief operating officer. “Nutrition plays a very important part in one’s overall health.”
MCHC has given out $1,225 worth of vouchers to 39 households since the “Farmacy” program began June 17.
Patients approved for the Farmacy program and members of their household each receive $1 per day for seven days. A voucher for a family of four totals $28. A patient living alone will be given a voucher for $14 worth of produce.
For the first two weeks of the Farmacy program, 70 percent of the vouchers were redeemed at the Letcher County Farmers Market.
“They do more than hand out a pamphlet with the food pyramid on it,” said Valerie Horn, director of Appal-TREE Project, a collaboration of Community Farm Alliance and the University of Kentucky. “It removes the barrier to eat healthier. It’s not going to fix all ails, but it does have the potential of improving health in a community. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
Patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and patients who are pregnant qualify for the program. Patients who meet federal poverty guidelines and are diagnosed with hypertension, obesity or diabetes may be eligible for produce vouchers.
Once a health care provider has decided that fresh fruits and vegetables are beneficial to a certain patient’s diet, the doctor will write the patient’s name and a referral for the Farmacy program on a blank prescription. The patient takes the prescription to Brandy Wilson, a MCHC certified pharmacy technician, who interviews the patient to see if the patient meets eligibility requirements.
In order to track the program’s impact on a participant’s health, body mass index, glucose level, blood pressure and other health measures are monitored.
Each voucher is valid for one trip to the farmers market, which is located in the parking lot near the pedestrian bridge in downtown Whitesburg. A doctor’s visit is required for a Farmacy referral, but doctor’s visits aren’t necessary to obtain additional vouchers. Participants can get a new voucher each week by requesting a voucher from Wilson.
“It’s not just a one-time deal,” said Horn. “It is all through the growing season. The farmers market wants to be accessible to all in the community.”
Farmacy participants turn in vouchers to the manager at the farmers market tent in exchange for wooden dollars to spend at the farmers market, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Twenty percent of Saturday’s sales at the farmers market, Horn said, are attributed to Farmacy vouchers.
The six farmers who brought produce this weekend sold out. Saturday’s selection included blueberries, beans, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, Romaine lettuce and squash.
“The venders I talked to were all very happy,” said Caudill. “It’s an economic boost is what is exciting.”
Caudill said farmers are repurposing an industry to make money by supplying their own families’ needs in addition to selling excess crop, instead of giving the produce to others or throwing away rotten produce.
“Everything at this point is a win/win situation,” Caudill said. “This is a feel good program. It is one we are able to do to benefit our patients and our county. It is one that makes you feel good to participate in.”
While looking for a way to provide healthier food options, Horn said she looked at similar programs in Louisville and Connecticut.
Caudill credited Horn and the Appal-TREE Project for initiating the Farmacy program.
For more information, call Horn at 606-634-9468 or email Valerie@cfaky.org.
I’ve also attached the link to a WYMT news story.