Harvesting good health at the farmer’s market

May 25, 2017
Our garden at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont.

In a garden on the campus of Providence St. Patrick Hospital, patients fill their prescription for fresh produce at a mobile farmer’s market every week.

A prescription for produce

Through a partnership with the Great Harvest FARM-acy stand, Providence helps patients get fresh fruit and vegetables who otherwise cannot afford the produce on their own. In addition to their produce prescription, patients who are struggling to put food on the table receive a voucher for about $10 each month to shop at the farm stand. About 1,000 pounds of produce have been provided to people in need since the program began in 2015.

By improving nutrition, the program is helping patients lose weight and better manage chronic disease. Health care professionals are also available at the market stand for additional support. They provide cooking demonstrations, recipes and answer medical questions.

Responding to community needs

Based on data from Providence’s recent Community Health Needs Assessment, high levels of poverty in Missoula County, Mont., make access to healthy food a serious problem. In response, the Produce Prescription program was created as a service of Providence’s Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition Center. The center provided more than $814,000 in community benefit investments in 2016, including vital support for the Produce Prescription program.