Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation has received a $72,360 competitive grant from the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote more consumption and access to fruits and vegetables through MCHC’s Farmacy voucher program.
“It’s promoting access to healthy foods in the form of fruits and vegetables as a therapeutic way of helping to reduce the symptoms of a number of health conditions like hypertension, people who are close to adult onset of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and a number of conditions that can be mitigated or can be helped,” said Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in the USDA. “The belief on the part of the healthcare corporation is that making the investment to support healthier eating of less processed foods results in better health outcomes for folks, even those who have some of these conditions.”
MCHC patients involved with the Farmacy program last summer lost weight and had decreases in body mass index and glucose levels.
Nearly 150 MCHC patients purchased a total of $18,000 worth of locally grown produce by redeeming 1,049 Farmacy vouchers at the City of Whitesburg/ Letcher County Farmers Market from June 17 until September 30.
Ninety-three Farmacy participants who were surveyed said they saw overall improvement in their wellbeing. Body mass index dropped by 7.4 percent and participants lost a total of 105.6 pounds. Glucose levels dropped by 267 points.
“The money-matching funds are allowing us to expand the MCHC Farmacy program not only in Letcher County, but also in Owsley County,” said MCHC Chief Executive Officer Mike Caudill. “It’s benefiting patients by extending grocery budgets and providing fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Caudill said in addition to favorable impacts on patients’ health, the Farmacy program also helps local farmers generate revenue.
Farmers at the Whitesburg Farmers Market Saturday received a total of $2,691 on behalf of the Farmacy program.
USDA awarded $16.8 million in grants to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increase purchases of fresh produce. Funding comes from the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
“We’ve really been on a mission for the last seven years to increase access to farmers markets for low-income households across the country,” said Concannon. “A low-income household receiving that extra help on purchasing healthy food makes a real difference.”
Concannon said 6,700 of 8,000 farmers markets in the United States have the ability to accept SNAP cards for fruit and vegetable purchases. Nearly 600,000 Kentuckians participate in the SNAP program each month. Kentucky has a population of 4.4 million, according to the United States Census Bureau.