The FARMacy Pilot Program was initiated in the summer of 2016 as a collaboration between Wheeling Health Right Clinic in Wheeling, WV and Grow Ohio Valley, an urban farming group also located in Wheeling, WV. The collaboration came out of a joint concern for the health of the population of West Virginia, which leads the country in chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
We hope to prove via data collection that "food is medicine," and that the first method of both treatment and prevention of chronic disease should be with a healthy diet.
Wheeling Health Right Clinic patients who qualified for our Pilot Program had one or more chronic diseases. Most of them had diabetes in addition to obesity, high cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure.
We provided participants a "prescription" for fresh produce weekly for 15 weeks, as well as education about how to prepare the produce. All participants had blood testing and completed surveys before and after the program to demonstrate how the fresh produce had helped to improve their health and well being.
We opened the FARMacy Mobile Market on Thursdays in the Wheeling Health Right Clinic parking lot from 10am-2pm for participants and community members.
Results of our before and after blood testing did prove that both blood sugars and cholesterol improved when patients ate a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits. The completed surveys showed that education about produce preparation increased participant confidence to prepare these recipes at home. The majority of our participants said they felt better, had more energy, and would continue to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables if they had access and could afford to do so.
Wheeling Health Right, in partnership with Grow Ohio Valley, expanded the FARMacy program in 2017 to 25 weeks, allowing us to provide produce to more patients! We added an additional location at the Moundsville Pharmacy on Saturdays for the convenience of patients who live in Marshall or Wetzel Counties.
We also launched our "Cooking From the Ground Up" program at West Virginia Northern Community College, which combines basic food preparation skills with healthy, nutritious meal planning and wellness tips for patients and outside participants.
In 2018 FARMacy WV expanded to Wetzel County with a collaboration between Health Right patients served at Wetzel County Hospital Clinic and the Go Local, Grow Local farmers and growers association. 25 patients received healthy produce for the growing season which made a difference in their ability to treat their chronic disease. They received information about the nutritional value of their produce and were given recipes on how to prepare it. Farmers and growers were there at every pick up time to sell to the public, and we know that hospital personnel took advantage of this event weekly. We considered the program a successful pilot endeavor into an area of West Virginia which is truly a food desert with the idea of expansion of the program in 2019 to include Tyler County. The pilot program was championed by Lisa DuMars, who with her husband Jon, is a local grower in Tyler County and the coordinator of Go Local, Grow Local. She is an amazing advocate for the FARMacy WV program, and we are so thrilled that she is on board with expanding the program!
Wheeling Health Right in conjunction with Grow Ohio Valley continued their FARMacy WV program for year three of their collaboration, and we provided 50 patients with healthy fresh produce for 16 weeks during the growing season. Many of the patients from 2017 were back to participate once again in the program. Patients were provided recipes and healthy eating tips from the West Virginia University Extension office as well as nutritional education about the produce. We considered this year a successful continuation of a solid partnership with Grow Ohio Valley. Patient participants benefitted from the locally grown fresh produce to help treat their chronic disease, and the improvement in their HgA1C levels reflected the fact that FOOD IS MEDICINE.
The FARMacy 2019 programs were a success on multiple fronts this year! The Wetzel County Program was relocated to Sistersville in Tyler County and incorporated patients from the Sistersville area who were referred from local physicians. Go Local Grow Local, under the leadership of Lisa Dumars, once again provided produce for 25 patients with Type II Diabetes who demonstrated that eating more fresh vegetables can improve HgA1C levels and overall health and wellness.
Upshure County was our new addition this year. Tri-County Health Clinic in Rock Cave under the leadership of Jenna Ward, PAC started their own FARMacy pilot program with 15 patients with Type II DM. Local growers provided the produce for the patient participants, and the program was well received. We hope that they will be a permanent addition to our FARMacy WV family.
Of course, Wheeling Health Right Clinic once again expanded their program this year in a continued partnership with Grow Ohio Valley. We served 55 patients for 16 weeks with locally grown, delicious and nutritious produce. Wheeling Health Right also incorporated a new educational piece this year, The Wellness Bridge, taught by Judi Hladek, founder and owner of the program. We are excited to see how our health metrics improve with a longer and more detailed program geared toward life style change as well as nutrition. Chef Gene surprised us once again this year by offering to do a Basic Cooking Skills class at WVNCC for interested FARMacy participants. This will last 4 weeks and will be held at the wonderful WVNCC commercial kitchen and will use vegetables provided by Grow Ohio Valley.
FARMacy WV has inspired multiple clinics in the state to develop their own programs using our template, Cabin Creek Health Clinics in Kanawha County is an example. We consider all of these clinics and growers members of the FARMacy WV family and a vital part of our grass roots movement to promote HEALTHY FOOD as MEDICINE.
Despite the COVID 19 crisis and the gobal pandemic, the FARMacyWV: Prescriptions for Produce program was successful in 2020! In fact due to the dedication, efforts, and creativity of clinic staff, educators, and farmers, FARMacy WV has opened 10 new programs in clinics in the most food insecure counties of the state. The WVU Extension office was awarded a large grant from the Walmart Foundation to establish not only new FARMacy programs, but also Kid’s Markets and expansion of the Snap Stretch program. The program, “Appetite for a Healthier Future” focused on Barbour, Boone, Cabell, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Mercer, Mingo, Roane, and Upshur Counties and provided 30 patients at each clinic with produce for 15 weeks.
The WVU Extension Program provided the educational component for the clinics, and due to the COVID 19 restrictions that were mandated by the state, were more creative in their approach then ever before. The produce distribution was also different this year due to these same restrictions, but the staff in all of the participating clinics rose to the occasion. They developed innovative ways to distribute produce while continuing the interaction and connection to their patients.
The Health Research Department of the The WVU School of Public Health developed software to aid clinics in data collection and analysis. The health metric data as well as data collected in the pre and post surveys of the program will provide sustainability for FARMacy WV in the future. The Walmart grant will continue for an additional year through 2021 continuing with data collection and analysis.
Several of our existing sites in the state rallied on through the COVID summer of 2020! Tyler County as well as Wheeling Health Right both had successful years despite the pandemic with creative approaches to both pick up and education. New members of the FARMacy family include Mountain State Clinic in Paw Paw as well as Camden Clarke Hospital in Parkersburg.
As we move into 2021, the planning sessions for FARMacy WV throughout the state have already begun. We are hoping and praying that last year was the worst of the pandemic and that we are heading for calmer waters. Regardless, we shall carry on with our mission of providing access to healthy food and education to patients in need throughout the state. Go FARMacy WV 2021!!
of adults in West Virginia have Type 2 diabetes, the highest rate in the country
of adults in West Virginia have High Blood Pressure, which also leads the country
of West Virginia adults are obese, the highest rate in the country
West Virginia has a 16.4% rate of obesity in children aged 2 to 4 and a 19.5% rate of obesity in high school children
FARMacy moves forward towards our goals with the help of many talented people and generous organizations. Please visit the links and read more below to learn more about our partners.