Tom Corwin, Staff Writer for the Augusta Chronicle
Getting a regular dose of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets could be the “prescription” for health for 20 women in Harrisburg and their children, healthy eating advocates announced Tuesday.
The G.R.O.W. Harrisburg Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program was announced Tuesday and while it is the first in Georgia it could serve as a model for efforts in other parts of the state, said Sara Berney, executive director of Wholesome Wave Georgia, which is providing $20,000 to fund it. The program would select mothers in the area through the Harrisburg Family Health Care clinic who had or were at risk for diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes, she said. Beginning in June, each would be provided with $1 per day per family member to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at the Veggie Truck Farmers Market that is open every Tuesday.
“It’s still putting fresh food in the community, it is supporting local farmers, putting dollars” into the locally grown food market, Berney said.
The women’s health would be monitored regularly by the clinic and they would also be paired with students from Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, who would provide nutritional counseling and would also monitor the family’s progress. The women would also get cooking demonstrations and healthy eating advice through Icebox Ministries, such as healthy eating using a crockpot.
“It helps to save time, it helps to save money,” said Tasha Alison of Icebox Ministries.
It is just part of the G.R.O.W. Harrisburg movement, which is also putting in raised garden beds in the community and helping people plant and grow the right way, said Kim Hines of Augusta Locally Grown, which is one of the partners on the prescription program. It also includes St. Luke United Methodist Church in Harrisburg and is part of the church’s attempt to have a positive influence on the community, said Marsha Jones, who is director of outreach for the church and board president of Harrisburg Family Health Care.
Not only will medical students help educate the families on healthy eating but the students can learn from the families about providing good care, she said.
“We can really teach each other,” Jones said.
The prescription program is based on one done through the national Wholesome Wave group based in Connecticut but most of the other programs are done at large academic medical centers like George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Berney said. The Harrisburg initiative is a grassroots, community-based effort that could one day end up across Georgia, she said. It would be similar to one the group already does to partner with 40 Farmers Markets across the state, including Veggie Truck in Augusta, to double the food-stamp dollars spent on local healthy foods at those markets, Berney said.
“The idea is really how can we get fresh, affordable nourishing foods to families where they don’t necessarily have the dollars to spend on healthy foods,” she said.