Farmacy, a new program through the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, is connecting the medical community to the statewide farmers market programs.
Through the West Virginia Extension office, this allows a medical facility like the Robert C. Byrd Clinic to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to patients who suffer from pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes.
Amy E. Jasperse, RPh., is the clinic’s certified culinary medicine specialist. She is a consultant pharmacist and specializes in diabetes care and education.
“We have high rates of obesity,” she says, “and with that comes heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.”
Jasperse says those diseases born from nutritional choices.
According to the website on FarmacyWV.com there is a food desert in West Virginia. A food desert is defined as an area where people live but there are no full-service grocery stores in a reasonable proximity.
The distance is defined as one mile for city residents or five miles for rural homes.
A convenience store cannot offer the scale of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods that a full grocery does. And the frozen pre-made meals and canned product they might carry does not do the job of feeding the body properly.
Jasperse says that incorporating more fruit and vegetables (fresh kind) can lower the A1C of a patient by .9 percent where most oral medicines often prescribed can achieve no more than .79 percent. The two processes together can make a huge difference in the health of patients.
“By incorporating more fruits and vegetables we now know that type-2 diabetes can be prevented and even reversed,” she says
The Farmacy program started in 2016 when West Virginia physicians saw the need to teach patients to eat better and offer them ways to access the healthy foods. Today there are 25 sites in the state that participate in the Farmacy program.
In Greenbrier County we have 30 patients in this pilot program who are getting food provided by three famers. Each patient had to meet certain criteria: be a current patient at Robert C. Byrd Clinic, be income-qualified, and be pre-diabetic or have type-2 diabetes.
On Farmacy market days, a tent is set up in front of the clinic and the group of participants are divided in half.
The first half go to the Clingman’s Center for a two-hour long cooking class with Elizabeth Reynolds, also teaching the dietary and diabetes education as well.
Their counterparts shop at the tent and receive 20 dollars’ worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce is pre-packaged and priced by the bunch or container, and they choose their $20 worth from a wide variety of produce. Then the groups switch places and complete the weekly program.
The choices this past week were beets, kale, blackberries, half-runner green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, apple and carrots. Beth Smailes of Sunset View Farm was the farmer on site, and she actually went the night before and picked the blueberries at Friendly Goat Farm who charged her a reduced fee. She barely breaks even on the produce at the Farmacy, she says, but it’s all for a good cause.
The other farmers participating this year are Adam Craten’s On The Levels farm and Tommye Rafes’ T&L Fruits and Berries. Mary Surbaugh from the Courthouse Farmers Market was on hand to help set up and to aid the buyers by tallying up their chosen produce.
|Sunset View Farms owner Beth Smailes prices the produce for the Wednesday Farmacy at Robert C. Byrd Clinic. Carolyn Cleaton photo|
|Stacy Spade fills her shopping bag with her prescribed $20 worth, while more program shoppers line up for their turn. Carolyn Cleaton photo|