Bridging the Great Health Divide: WVU Extension program tackles food insecurity and improves overall health
A WVU Extension program “FARMacy” is working to improve people’s overall health while also tackling food insecurity.
Instead of a prescription for medicine, people are getting prescriptions for fresh produce and it’s greatly improving people’s overall health, especially those experiencing chronic disease.
During the 15 week program, weekly produce prescriptions are redeemed at a pop-up farmers market, which is usually hosted outside a clinic site. In addition to picking up produce, participants are met with support from their healthcare providers, as well as a series of nutrition education and cooking lessons centered on preparing easy, tasty, and healthy meals.
FARMacy class graduate Teresa Smith says the program has changed her life. She said, “As a new diabetic, I’m always looking for ways to help improve our health, mine and my husbands. He’s also a diabetic.” Smith also says that thanks to this program, she’s able to control her diabetes without the need for medication. “We’ve learned so much about how to deal with your diabetes and how to get you back on the right place. I’m actually fortunate enough that I’m able to take my diabetes and take care of it using diet only. I’m not on any medications right now.”
Decreasing the need for these medications is a major goal for those who work for the Farmacy program like Physician Assistant Jenna Ward. “I can do more than just prescribe a medication by prescribing them the food and the tools to learn how to improve their health,” explained Ward.
The program was created in 2016 and has since expanded to over 10 counties across the state, thanks to funding from the Walmart Foundation. Another major goal of the program is to provide people in rural areas with easier access to healthy foods.
Extension Specialist with the WVU Family Nutrition Program Gina Wood explains, “In West Virginia, we have so many rural communities that don’t have full service grocery stores, so the nearest full service grocery store that has fruits and vegetables to offer could be tens of miles away for a lot of our participants.”
To find more information on how to sign-up or how to get involved, visit https://extension.wvu.edu/food-health/nutrition/fnp.
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
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