For too many people, food insecurity and health complications go hand-in-hand. Eating fresh, healthy food makes a big difference for people with diet-related illnesses, but the cost of fresh food makes eating well difficult for those with limited incomes.
Neighbors like Valerie, a senior from Salem whose chronic health issues mean significant healthcare expenses, are struggling with the rising cost of food, which makes eating healthily and managing those conditions even more challenging.
That’s why Valerie’s nutritionist helped sign her up for the Food Share’s Farm Share Rx program. Each week throughout the summer and early fall, Valerie receives a box of fresh produce grown and harvested by students at the Food Share’s six-acre Youth Farm. The boxes are supplemented with items sourced from other local growers and are prescribed by healthcare providers to patients of three partner clinics in Salem and Grand Ronde.
“It’s a godsend in more ways than one,” says Valerie, who gets excited for each week’s bounty and looks forward to interacting with the Youth Farm crew members on distribution days.
Valerie suffers from uncontrolled diabetes, for which she takes three types of insulin, and is also battling irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol and blood pressure, dementia, anxiety and PTSD.
“It’s overwhelming at times, but I just have to tell myself that every day is a blessing,” she says.
Receiving a box of fresh produce every week is making a big impact on her grocery budget and her health conditions. Because of the Farm Share Rx boxes, she’s learning to make healthy juices, exploring new recipes and eating a wider variety of fresh produce than she did before.
Another Farm Share Rx client, Bianca, says that the cost of fresh produce is always a barrier to eating well, especially now as inflation continues and her money doesn’t go as far as it used to at the grocery store.
“Lately the vegetables have become obnoxiously pricey. We wouldn’t have had blueberries at all this season if it wasn’t for these kids,” she says, gesturing at the Youth Farm crew members. “The box helps a lot, it makes a huge difference.”
Like Valerie, Bianca is happy to experiment with new foods that come in the Farm Share Rx boxes, and to try produce that she wouldn’t have considered purchasing in the past because she was unfamiliar with it. When items come along that she and her daughter are not particularly fond of, they pass them along to neighbors so nothing goes to waste.
“There’s always somebody that will eat it, and you don’t feel bad about sharing it because it was shared with you first,” she says.
Money is tight in Bianca’s household. She’s on Social Security Disability Insurance and her daughter is a full-time college student, so the Farm Share Rx program has provided a much-needed boost.
“This program is allowing us to have vegetables at least once a day,” she says, “which is helping with the dietary needs. It really is.”