Expanding the Farmacy model to Forestville

This year, Petaluma Bounty became a subcontractor of InterFaith Sustainable Food Collaborative as part of their USDA FINI grant. This funding provides matching incentives for the Bounty Farmacy, Sliding Scale Farmstand and CSA boxes for CalFresh customers. It includes a small amount of funds for Petaluma Bounty to provide technical expertise to mentor a new Farmacy site. Below, is a blog from Kaleigh Spollen, HealthCorps Alumnus of Forestville Health Center, about her experience launching the Forestville Farmacy.

WC Meeting group

“In college, I came across a news article lauding a collaboration between a health center and non-profit in a small Californian city.  Dubbed the “Farmacy,” this initiative was an innovative way to increase fruit and vegetable access for patients at Petaluma Health Center while also celebrating locally grown food from Petaluma Bounty Farm.  Essentially, it entailed an in-clinic farm stand with sliding scale prices based on economic need.  Years later, I found myself in Sonoma County, working with multiple dedicated people, including Suzanne Grady, Program Director at Petaluma Bounty, to expand this model to West County Health Centers.

Like Petaluma Health Center, West County Health Centers is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the North Bay region of California.  WCHC strives to provide comprehensive, quality and accessible health care services to the communities of Western Sonoma County. More than 40% of the health center’s patients are living at or below the federal poverty level.  Moreover, the area served by WCHC has high rates of food insecurity and a limited selection of affordable grocery outlets within walking distance that offer fresh fruits and vegetables.

WC stand

We were given the opportunity to launch a pilot program at our health center as part of the USDA FINI (Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive) Program, in which a dollar-for-dollar match could be provided for CalFresh/EBT cardholders, so that these individuals could purchase produce at half the price it would normally be. Developing this “Farmacy” at WCHC seemed intuitive. Not only would it fall in line with the mission of WCHC, but it would bring awareness to the Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E initiative and strike up conversation around local agriculture.  In short, the Farmacy pilot project would hopefully connect our patients to their health, land, food and the people who grow it daily.

WC Meeting mind mapping

Under the tireless mentorship and direction provided by Suzi, we worked on development and outreach over the fall and spring.  We planned a dual model, combining both a farm stand and CSA (community supported agriculture).  This way, individuals can sign up for a weekly box of fresh produce or choose to purchase individual items at the Farmacy – all provided by Sebastopol-based Laguna Farm. We are currently offering the Farmacy alongside our services at the Forestville Wellness Center, including Group Medical Visits that help to support, empower and educate patients around diabetes management, mindful eating, and living with chronic pain.  The co-location of wellness services and Farmacy program is a viable model to address the growing challenge of food insecurity, empower patients and lead to improved health outcomes over time. Dedicated patients arrive each week, EBT card and bag in hand, to pick up their CSA box or buy pints of cherry tomatoes and bunches of kale. Many patients have commented on the innovative nature of the in-clinic farm stand and support from staff has been excellent.

WC CSA WC Stack of boxes

Tackling chronic disease and food insecurity both require a multi-faceted approach — collaborating with a local, sustainable farm in our own community has been one way for patients to make meaningful changes in their own health. Being a “member” of a CSA program allows us to develop a rich and deep appreciation for where our food comes from and how it nourishes us — it can be considered a direct application of the education put forth in many Group Medical Visits at the Forestville Wellness Center or in an appointment with a WCHC provider. Patients can come away from an appointment at their local clinic with instructions to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Through the Farmacy, we ultimately hope to help crystallize thoughts into action, making it easier and more affordable to eat healthy foods.”

Thank you Kaleigh, for your leadership, vision, and perseverance and Molly for continuing this innovative service! Congratulations to Forestville Health Center staff and patients, Laguna Farm, and InterFaith Sustainable Food Collaborative for this community victory!

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