By Emerald Adkins
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
Imagine having to walk a mile or more just to find a grocery of any type. Imagine facing the dilemma of having the money to pay the rent or buy food, but not both. What do you do?
In 2015, according to Map the Meal Gap, 16.9% of Charlottesville residents were food insecure, lacking reliable access to sufficient amounts of fresh food. Little has changed since. Issues barring people from a healthy diet may include living in a food desert, transportation challenges, financial difficulties, or all three.
The connection between healthy eating and good health has long been understood. And yet, historically, that connection has been and remains a challenge, particularly in urban areas.
This is a multi-faceted problem requiring many approaches, and among the solutions being crafted for Charlottesville is Local Food Hub’s Fresh Farmacy program.
Officially called the Fresh Farmacy: Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program, it was established in 2015 to increase food access and encourage lasting lifestyle changes among participants. The program provides biweekly shares of locally grown vegetables and fruit to residents who have limited access to such foods, and who are diagnosed with, or at risk of diet related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. In addition to the produce, each share includes tips for the safe food storage & handling, nutritional guidelines, recipes, and other support materials designed to build confidence in cooking. Materials are available in Spanish and in English.
Participation in the program has increased annually since its inception in 2015. This season, since early May, 290 households are being served.
In 2019, program expansion focused on increasing availability to families with young children. 20 Southwood community residents in the Women Infants and Children Federal Assistance Program (WIC) are participating in a pilot program designed for their benefit.
Another change this year is Local Food Hub’s new partnership with Warrenton, VA based 4P Foods — the program is coordinated & paid for by Local Food Hub while shares are packed & delivered by 4P Foods.
Local Food Hub secures grant funding to ensure that the program is free for all participants. The grant application process is underway for the 2020 season. In addition to expanding the program, Local Food Hub hopes to secure funding for enhanced program evaluation, a “graduation” program, and expanded education.