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A Visit to the "Farmacy" Means Eating Healthier

Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables through Farmacy, an innovative healthy eating program. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables through Farmacy, an innovative healthy eating program. (Greg Stotelmyer)
June 20, 2016

WHITESBURG, Ky. – When people think of prescriptions, they usually think of medicine, not tomatoes or cantaloupe.

But there are now some doctors in eastern Kentucky writing their patients prescriptions for fresh produce.

The Farmacy Program – that's pharmacy with an F – was started last summer by a nonprofit community health center to help lower-income people with chronic illnesses eat healthier.

"It'll also help those patients extend their family budget for food because, basically, it's expensive to eat healthy," says Mike Caudill, chief executive officer of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation.

With a Farmacy prescription, a low-income family receives a dollar a day per family member to buy fruits and vegetables at the Letcher County Farmers Market.

In addition to helping patients, the Farmacy Program also puts money into the pockets of local farmers.

Market co-chair Valerie Horn says about half the revenue the farmers take in now comes from the Farmacy Program.

"And as benefactors of the program, it has been a huge boost to their sales and markets," she states.

The program also provides a healthy boost to those with hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Caudill says 125 families participated last summer, and that led to weight loss and an average drop of 25 percent in patients' blood pressure.

This summer, the Farmacy Program is expanding to more families in Letcher County, and to Owsley County.

The growth is being funded in part by a federal grant authorized in the Farm Bill.

"The average American does not consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet,” says Kevin Concannon, under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. “Most of us consume too many processed foods, if you will, and in low-income households that gap is even greater."

The pilot project funding awarded to the Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation adds just over $72,000 to the healthy eating initiative.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY