Last Saturday, we enjoyed art by Ashley Bouton and information from SeniorLIFE Indiana. We also welcomed two new vendors - The Spades and Wilds Market - and 8 Maples Farm joined us for the first time of the season!
This Saturday, stop by the Artisan Tent to shop handmade bath & body products by Lori Roberts.
This week, we also have a guest blog post! Some of you may remember Sarayna Schock from our Community Tent a few weeks back. Sarayna is a third year medical student from Penn State Hershey Medical Center and founder of Penn State ProduceRx. She has been researching the benefits of healthcare-agriculture partnerships in Central Pennsylvania since 2015. She was kind enough to share a post with us telling more about what she has learned. Read on!
...But first...SAVE THE DATE!!
CUSTOMER APPRECIATION DAY is Saturday, July 29th! We will have a full lineup of special tents, and a drawing for some of your favorite market goodies! Bring the whole family for a fun morning at the market!
The Benefits of Healthcare-Agriculture Partnerships
In 2015 when I set out to start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)-patient partnership at our medical center, I was focused on helping connect patients with quality, nutritious food to benefit their dietary intake and chronic illnesses. It wasn’t until I began working closely with our initial partner farm that I began to consider what the program could potentially mean for local agriculture, local businesses, and the entire community.
I come from a long-line of farmers on my father’s side and healthcare providers on my mother’s side. I’ve come to appreciate that these two necessary sectors do not need to be mutually exclusive. Only 40% of Americans today consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the recommended amount by US Dietary Guidelines (Guenther et al, 2006; Wilkins et al, 2015). Research has shown that plant-based diets are associated with improved weight management and reduced risk for chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (Estruch et al, 2013; Lock et al, 2005). This equates to decreased healthcare costs for patients, employers, and the government. So why is it that healthcare-agriculture partnerships are so few and far between in our country?
In the past decade, there have been attempts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption amongst patients or underserved ‘food desert’ communities. These efforts have often utilized the ‘prescription-produce’ model in which physicians “prescribe” quality nutrition with the hope that patients will view the prescription with as much importance as they would a script for a statin to treat hypercholesterolemia. Past interventions have ranged from adding fruits to clinic offices to providing purchasing vouchers to grocery stores and local farmer’s markets (Buyuktuncer et al, 2014; Cavanagh et al, 2016; Quandt et al, 2013). Some of these interventions have even included one-on-one nutrition education or mentoring to individuals newly introduced to produce. However little has been done to link patients with Community Supported Agriculture.
Unlike grocery stores and farmer’s markets that patients must travel to, some located far from a patient’s residence, CSA programs often have pre-existing delivery sites throughout a specific region for participants to chose from. CSA links consumers with local farmers directly, allowing for patients to have an intimate connection with where their food is coming from and the farmers supplying it to them. These programs often include Open Farm Days or “Pick Your Own” opportunities, allowing participants the opportunity to develop an even deeper connection to the land their food is harvested from, as well as an appreciation for the work that goes into supplying the contents of their weekly boxes. For patients who have never seen an eggplant or kohlrabi before, receiving these items in their weekly box along with recipe ideas encourages utilization of produce that would have otherwise been skipped over at the grocery store.
Our partnership model also benefits the local economy. Partner farms benefit from the increased CSA share purchases, even while they offer the boxes at a small bulk discount to our patients. The program’s Facebook page and website serve as free marketing for the farms, as do the media opportunities the program sees due to it’s novel approach. Nearly all of our partner farms sell at local markets, allowing for additional purchases by participants, especially those closer to the markets and/or more willing to drive the extra distance after experiencing the quality of local agriculture. The farm’s participation in the program may also be seen favorably by non-program CSA members and thus encourage new non-program subscriptions and subscription renewals in this way. With new box drop-off sites being offered at local businesses and farmers markets this year, we anticipate increased profits for these local vendors as the box pick-up is bringing in new visitors to these locations. Similar to our partner farms, we also feature our partner markets and businesses online to increase marketing for them. These new connections between patients, local farms, and local businesses increase community-connectedness. In our pilot year, our initial partner farm cited receiving moving personal stories of gratitude and appreciation directly from program patients.
I believe the ProduceRx program model is easily replicable at other health systems across the country. I have found nearly all local farmers are enthusiastic about potential partnership in such a model as most entered farming to benefit the health of others while providing quality agricultural products to the community. In my experience it takes initiative from somewhere inside a health system to start such a program, as this is where the knowledge of “chain of command” is essential to move such a program proposal through the necessary channels to get approval and most importantly, support. I would encourage Indiana Regional Medical Center to make contact with local farms, three of whom have already expressed interest in participating in such a program, to address the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment’s identification of “obesity and overweight” as a major health problem and “healthy eating” as a top priority in the region (IRMC, 2015).
Sarayna Schock is a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania and founder of Penn State ProduceRx (http://hmc.pennstatehealth.org/producerx). She is a former Certified Pharmacy Technician and veteran of the United States Air Force. Sarayna earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies from American Military University. She enjoys traveling, cooking, and gardening in her free time.
Buyuktuncer Z, Kearney M, Ryan CL, et al. Fruit and vegetables on prescription: a brief intervention in primary care. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014;27(Suppl. 2),186–193.
Cavanagh M, Jurkowski J, Bozlak C, et al. VegieRx: an outcome evaluation of a healthy food incentive programme. Public Health Nutr. 2016; doi: 10.1017/S1368980016002081.
Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvado J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. NEJM. 2013; doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
Guenther PM, Dodd KW, Reedy J et al. Most Americans eat much less than recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106:1371-1379.
Indiana Regional Medical Center. Indiana Regional Medical Center Community Health Needs Assessment. 2015; https://www.indianarmc.org/media/1209/pmcn_irmc_chna_executive_summary_6-5-15_revised3.pdf. Accessed May 2017.
Lock K, Pomerleau J, Causer L, et al. The global burden of disease attributable to low consumption of fruit and vegetables: implications for the global strategy on diet. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2005;83:100-108.
Quandt SA, Dupuis J, Fish C, et al. Feasibility of using a community-supported agriculture program to improve fruit and vegetable inventories and consumption in an underresourced urban community. Prev Chronic Dis. 2013;10:130053.
Wilkins JL, Farrell TJ, Rangarajan A. Linking vegetable preferences, health and local food systems through community-supported agriculture. Public Health Nutr. 2015;18(13):2392-2401.