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WGH Partnering With Vernon Farmers Market For Program

May 09, 2018

In an effort to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among Vernon’s most vulnerable residents, Wilbarger General Hospital, in partnership with the Vernon Farmers Market Association, will be launching a Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program, a novel approach designed to help those at-risk for lifestyle related illnesses to take more control over their health.

The Vernon Farmers Market will kick off the 2018 season this Saturday at the Courthouse Square, and will start its mid-week market on the Wilbarger General Hospital lawn on Tuesday, May 15. On Saturdays, the Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon, and on Tuesdays the market is open from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program is being funded through a grant from The Priddy Foundation.

“When Monica Wilkinson came to us with the idea of health care providers writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables, we jumped at the opportunity to work with her and the Farmers Market in an effort to get a grant for the program,” said Claudia Eisenmann, CEO of Wilbarger General.

Wilkinson, the City Planner and Project Coordinator of the Red River Valley Local Food Expansion Project, with help from Kathy McClellan, Director of Marketing & PR at Wilbarger General, completed a grant proposal and submitted it in November of 2017.

“I read about a program similar to this one, and thought it would be great if the Farmers Market and the hospital could work together and put a program together that could encourage residents to eat healthier and take advantage of the fresh fruit and vegetables that are available at the Farmers Market,” Wilkinson said.

Through the program, which will last through August, Wilbarger General Medical Group health care providers will distribute a total of 240 voucher packs that are worth $30 each. Every pack contains 15 $2 vouchers that are redeemable at the Vernon Farmers Market.

The WGMG health care providers will identify patients who are low income and have either been diagnosed with, or are at a high risk for, lifestyle related illnesses, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“Our hospital and medical group are here to help residents get well when they are sick, but more important, we want to facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles in our community,” Eisenmann explained. “It isn’t enough to just get well; we want people to stay well.”

With the distribution of the 240 voucher packs, conceivably 1,000 family members will have access to fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are more nutritious and cost more than processed foods. This type of “exposure therapy” could have a positive influence on the health of participants and their families.

“The vouchers will allow recipients to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, to get acquainted with the Vernon Farmers Market, build relationships with market farmers, and introduce them to new recipes and techniques for preparing fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables,” Wilkinson said. “Plus, the sales of local fruits and vegetables will increase for our area farmers.”

Additionally, members of the WGH staff and health care providers will have a better opportunity to educate their patients on the value of fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthier lifestyle.

“Ultimately, taking steps like initiating the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program can positively influence the overall health of the community. Healthier lifestyles not only lead to reduced healthcare costs, but in the case of this program, also support small, local farms and businesses,” Eisenmann said.

Wilbarger General’s physicians and nurse practitioners will keep a distribution log for the voucher packs. The Vernon Farmers Market staff will keep a redemption log for the vouchers, which will be submitted to Wilbarger General at the end of each month, May through August, for reimbursement. The Vernon Farmers Market staff will then distribute the reimbursement to the market vendors.