JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL-TV) – Low income people who shop at the Johnson City or Jonesborough farmers markets may may soon be able to get a “prescription” for fresh fruits and vegetables beginning this summer.
Thanks to a $100,000 federal grant from the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, SNAP-recipient patients of the Johnson City Community Health Clinic and clients of the Johnson City Senior Center and Jonesborough Senior Center will have the opportunity to enroll and receive a free “prescription” for fresh produce, for every week of the summer thru the Appalachian Farmacy beginning on July 8.
“The goal is to recruit families that have diabetes or heart disease or who are overweight to participate in the program and to demonstrate the health impacts of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.”, Lexi Close of the Appalchian RC&D Council said.
A family of four qualifies to receive up to $28 each week, as long as they continue to check in at the Health Clinic. Only one family member has to be receiving SNAP to receive a prescription. The goal is to enroll 100 SNAP-recipient families into the program. The “prescription” vouchers are redeemable at three farmers market locations. The Johnson City Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays; the Jonesborough Farmers Market on Saturdays; and at the Boone Street Market in Jonesborough Monday through Saturday.
Close added, “Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, so this money from the USDA is just for paeople who are already on SNAP-EBT. They’ll have to demonstrate that they are on that and it will just be supplimental to that so it won’t impact how much money they are receiving thru SNAP, it will be on top of that.”
With 100 families able to potentially each receive $28-worth of fruits and vegetables each week of the farmers market season, that means a total of $56,000 invested in the direct purchase of fruits and vegetables. That is $56,000 invested in the regional agricultural economy.
“They’ll come to the booth in the center of the farmers market, and they’ll exchange it (voucher/prescription) for a token. And we’re pkugging in to an existing system, the market already takes EBT cards, so they can come with their cards, swipe them, they’ll get a colored token, we’re just going to have a differently colored token,”, Close said, “All of the vendors, they’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, they just take the tokens, you get your food, and at the end of the market, the farmers get reimbursed for those tokens.”
Free cooking and nutrition classes will be offered by the UT Extension Service and the Mountain State Health Alliance Health Resources Center multiple times over the summer. After taking the cooking classes, attendees will be given a box of produce needed to make the same dishes again at home. By the end of the summer, participants will report to the Health Clinic increased consumption of fresh healthy foods, and improved knowledge, behaviors, and health.
For more information, visit the Appalachian Farmacy facebook page or go to ARCD.org.
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