Community

$50,000 grant awarded in Johnson County for Veggie Rx Pilot Program

Vegetable prescriptions for reducing diet-related diseases

The Gazette

Carmen Black works on packing bags of spinach at Sundog Farm & Local Harvest CSA in Solon in 2017. Produce from Sundog Farm and other local farms will be distributed to participating low-income individuals as part of the Veggie Rx Pilot Program. An open house for the program will be held at Sundog Farm at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Gazette Carmen Black works on packing bags of spinach at Sundog Farm & Local Harvest CSA in Solon in 2017. Produce from Sundog Farm and other local farms will be distributed to participating low-income individuals as part of the Veggie Rx Pilot Program. An open house for the program will be held at Sundog Farm at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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A $50,000 grant through MidWestOne Bank will be awarded Tuesday to a group of Johnson County community organizations to create the Veggie Rx Pilot Program in an effort to reduce diet-related diseases with fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Coralville Community Food Pantry, North Liberty Community Pantry, University of Iowa Health Care’s Upstream Clinic, Johnson County’s local foods coordinator and several area farmers have teamed up to launch the vegetable prescription program.

John Boller, director of the Coralville pantry, said this kind of collaboration is the only one in Iowa that is designed to help low-income individuals facing diet-related health issues. The program will directly help improve the health of the participants with routine access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, individualized dietary guidance and engaging educational activities related to growing, preparing and eating healthy foods.

The fresh produce will be purchased directly from local farms such as Sundog Farm in Solon, Wild Woods in Iowa City and Echollective in Mechanicsville, and be distributed to up to 40 participants enrolled in the 26-week program. The Coralville and North Liberty food pantries also will be stocked with “high-quality, nutrient-dense” food.

The participants’ complete diet will be tracked and analyzed by medical professionals and medical students from the university’s Upstream Clinic.

Boller said the mobile clinic will start providing health screenings to determine eligibility of people who use both pantries for the pilot program this fall. Then a “sort of lottery” will be used to select 20 people from each pantry for the pilot. Boller said they are hoping to start issuing the vegetable “prescriptions” by April.

“This program can help coach and empower individuals in healthier habits while making food-appropriate resources more identifiable and accessible for food pantry clients and our patients at the community, home and daily life level,” said Dr. Craig Syrop, professor emeritus with University of Iowa Health Care, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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MidWestOne Bank CEO Charlie Funk said bank officials were “delighted to lend support to the Veggie Rx Program.”

“We look forward to working with an established group of community health advocates and we are confident this will provide a lasting impact on the overall health of our community,” Funk said.

An open house for press and community members will be Tuesday at Sundog Farm from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. to celebrate the launch of the pilot program. MidWestOne Bank will present the $50,000 grant at that time.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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