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 2019 season mid-week market on the Wilbarger General Hospital lawn on Tuesday, May 14. 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 sponsorship from Wilbarger General Hospital, Family Pharmacy, and Hillcrest Pharmacy.
“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.
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.
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.