BEND, OR -- A new partnership between High Desert Food and Farm Alliance and Bend-based health clinics is designed to get more local fruits and vegetables in the hands of Central Oregonians who need them most. Each week for eight weeks, participants in the "Veggie Rx" program receive a $20 voucher for Bend’s Farmers Market, then they shop with Registered Dietitian Hanna Brzozowski. She tells KBND News, "They come to the market and they receive their vouchers, and they also get assistance walking through the market and trying to figure out, ‘Okay, what should I try this week?’ or ‘How do I stretch that voucher to be the most food I can or the most nourishing food I can?’ And then, maybe trying a different vegetable or a different fruit. They can ask me questions about their own health and nutrition, beyond just eating more fruits and vegetables."
Government assistance programs, like SNAP and WIC, already allow vouchers to be used at farmers markets. But, Brzozowski says, qualifications for this program are based on health, not income, "They have to have a diet-modifiable disease, such as cardio-vascular disease or Type-II Diabetes. And then, they’re also prescribed this program from a healthcare provider." She adds, "This partnership is aiming to bridge the gap between our healthcare system, our community and our farmers."
Brzozowski is also the Community Health worker for Veggie Rx. She says the goal is to show participants how their health can improve with more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of frozen or canned, "It’s much higher in micro-nutrient content – the minerals and vitamins in it. We really want people to kind of discover fruits and vegetables and have them taste good, and also have them nourish themselves. So, we want people to be able to say, ‘how do I make an eggplant and enjoy this?’ and, ‘what’s the benefit of eating an eggplant?’"
The first group will start the eight-week pilot program in about two weeks, with more starting on a rolling basis through September. She's hopeful the pilot program will eventually expand to other Central Oregon communities. To get involved as a provider or volunteer, call Brzozowski at 541-610-6046. Veggie Rx is inspired by and adapted from similar programs from the La Pine Community Health Clinic and Gorge Grown Food Network. Click HERE
for more information.