Farm-Direct Food For Everyone
JCFM's New VegRx Program Increases Local Food Access
Jessica comes to the Port Townsend Farmers Market booth every week with her two children, Troy and Sarah, ages four and seven. As she hands market staff her Electronic Benefits Card (EBT, formerly known as Food Stamps), Jessica does some quick math in her head. How much can she spend today to ensure that she gets the food she needs while keeping enough money to make it to the end of the month? The federal food assistance benefits she receives through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are an essential part of Jessica's monthly food budget. Even with these benefits, Jessica worries each month that she and her family will run out of money for food before she gets her next paycheck or the funds on her EBT card are renewed. For Jessica, the Jefferson County Farmers Markets' food assistance matching programs, Gimme5 and Fresh Bucks, make a huge difference. When she spends $20 on her EBT card, market staff give Jessica an additional $8 for fresh produce and $5 for any food from local farms; a total of $13 in matching, or $33 including her EBT purchase. These extra dollars mean that Jessica can bring home all of the fresh produce she and her family will eat for the week. Instead of feeling stressed about her meager food budget, Jessica and her family can munch on fresh carrots, support local farms, and visit with friends at the market. Jessica is a fictional person. However, her story mirrors that of many of the 500 plus market shoppers who benefit from JCFM's food assistance matching programs.
Supporting local food access is part of the JCFM mission. We do this at the Port Townsend and Chimacum Farmers Markets through our community-funded Gimme5 and USDA grant-funded Fresh Bucks programs. This year we are expanding local food access through a fruit and vegetable prescription program, VegRx. In partnership with Jefferson Healthcare, the Jefferson County Public Health 5210 campaign and the Food Coop, JCFM is piloting VegRx this market season at all three of our local farmers markets.
Fruit and vegetable prescription programs are being developing nationally by farmers markets and medical care providers as a strategy to respond to community food access and health needs through diet. While the Jefferson County Farmers Markets’ VegRx program is the first prescription program on the Olympic Peninsula, some farmers markets in the Seattle area are trialing similar programs. Farmers markets, healthcare providers, and participants find that these programs help participants link diet to health, support local food security, as well as build local economies through farm-direct sales.
Jefferson County VegRx partners aim to connect more families and individuals to nutritious, locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Families who self-identify as food insecure when filling out their intake survey for their Well Child Check with their Jefferson Healthcare primary care provider will be offered a 12-month VegRx prescription by participating providers. This prescription is redeemable and refilled monthly at the Port Townsend and Chimacum Farmers Markets for $10 a month. In December, the closing month of the Port Townsend Farmers Market, VegRx recipients will be given a three-month prescription redeemable for fresh fruit and vegetables at the Port Townsend Food Co-op during the market off-season, January-March. VegRx market tokens can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs and mushrooms.
Andrea Stafford, Marketing Manager at The Food Co-op, writes, “As part of The Food Co-op's cooperative spirit, it is our mission to support organizations and community leaders that are improving food access to all. This partnership just makes sense, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. Not only does it get fresh healthy food into people’s hands, but it supports the idea that food is medicine and that what we eat essentially influences our health in very profound ways.”
“We know that a diet made up of at least ½ fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancers, so I’d much rather write a prescription for fruits and vegetables to prevent illness than write a prescription for pills after an illness has occurred," says Dr. Molly Parker, Jefferson Healthcare. "What a great opportunity!”
“I’m excited about this project because it’s one system change that will make it easier for people to make healthy choices,” wrote Karen Obermeyer, Jefferson County Public Health.
VegRx will connect more people in our community to the Port Townsend and Chimacum Farmers Markets for the first time. While at market, VegRx recipients who qualify for SNAP and/or WIC/ Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers will also be able to get these federal food assistance dollars matched through Gimme5 and Fresh Bucks. Together, these three programs are strengthening local, nutritious food access, supporting farms, and fostering a healthy community as well as local economy.
After trialing the program this season, VegRx partners hope to expand its scope in 2019 to include more Jefferson Healthcare providers and serve more individuals and families. Community support will be essential for the future expansion and continuation of VegRx. Visit the JCFM website or Contact Market Director, Amanda Milholland, to learn more about VegRx. JCFM welcomes tax-deductible donations to this program.
See you at the Market! ~ Amanda
- Saturdays Weekly, 9am-2pm Port Townsend Farmers Market, Tyler Street
- April 21, 10am-12pm music by Douglas Francisco, 12-1:45pm music by Micaela Kingslight
- May 26th, 9am-3pm, Artisan Food Festival at the Port Townsend Farmers Market
- June 3rd, 10am-2pm, Chimacum Farmers Market Opening and the first day of the Power of Produce Club. Stay tuned for more information about our new weekly kids club at the Port Townsend Wednesday and Chimacum Farmers Markets.
- June 6th, 2-6pm, Port Townsend Wednesday Farmers Market Opening
From Our Vendors
Onatrue Farm will be at the Market Saturday, with fresh radishes, mustard greens, kale, spinach, carrots, collards, dry beans and oyster mushrooms.
Red Dog Farm will have buckets of peony and lily tulips, as well as long-stemmed tulips of all colors. Our plant starts are taking off; we have a almost 60 different varieties of veggies, herbs and flowers to choose from. And of course, all the tender green things: salad mix, raab, chives and more!
Did you know that Red Dog Farm offers a low-income CSA box at 50% off? To apply, simply fill out Low Income CSA Form. No one turned away! CSA information: April through December, Sign up for just a month or for all 9 months. Weekly share cost ranges from $20- 30 per week (before discount). For more information and to sign up: www.reddogfarm.net/csa. Red Dog Farm accepts donations towards our low-income CSA fund. All donations will be matched 100% by Red Dog Farm. Click here to make a donation: Low Income Donation.
One Straw Ranch: Do you want to give a special treat to the wild birds that are valiantly gracing us with their spring songs despite the continuing gray and gloomy weather? One Straw Ranch has Wild Bird Suet Cakes that will make your feathered friends feel your appreciation! New to the OSR lineup this year, they are made from small-batch rendered suet and lard from our own grass-fed beef and pastured pigs, grain raised in Sequim, and a sprinkling of bird seed. Not only do the birds love these, but using our own suet and lard helps to keep our operation sustainable as we attempt to make useful all the odd bits left over from an animal after we enjoy the T-bones and chops. The suet cakes will fit in a standard wire suet cake feeder, or you can feed them directly out of the container if you have a sheltered place where they won’t blow away in the wind when empty. This week One Straw Ranch is offering Wild Bird Suet Cakes at a special introductory price of $3.50.